If he can’t have Steve Baur as his basketball coach at Acadia, A.J. Simmonds is more than happy with Kevin Duffie as a second choice.
Simmonds - the initials stand for “Antonio Junior” – is a 20-year-old Dartmouth native who will enter his third year at Acadia this fall. The sociology major was the starting point guard for the Axemen last season.
He points out that Duffie, the new Axemen head coach, “is not a new coach for me.” Along with Baur and Nick Jordan, Duffie coached him on the U-17 provincial team, and he was an assistant coach at Acadia in Simmonds’ first year.
“As soon as Coach Baur left, I was rooting for Coach Duffie all the way. I’ve always felt comfortable with him as a coach. I’m happy he was hired, and I can’t see there’s going to be too much of a transition,” he added.
Along with his other coaching skills, Duffie “was a point guard when he played here. He helped me a lot, both with the provincial team and in my first year here.”
Asked how he ended up at Acadia, Simmonds said he started taking to Baur at the start of his Grade 11 year at Auburn Drive High School in Cole Harbour.
“I enjoyed all my recruiting trips here. I liked the school, the basketball program, the coaches, and all the other players. It really felt like home,” Simmonds said.
Passion for playing
“I’ve played basketball my whole life. I did a little track and field in high school, but my main focus has always been basketball,” Simmongs said.
“My dad played the game. I guess I get my love of basketball from him, but it’s also a sport I’ve always felt comfortable with. I fell in love with the game, and I still love it.”
Simmonds feels the Axemen should be a competitive team in 2014-2015.
“We’ll be young, and it may take a bit of time to develop real team chemistry, but once that happens, I feel we should be one of the top teams in the conference,” he added.
The Axemen have several promising rookies entering Acadia this fall, and a lot of the ‘young veterans’, including Simmonds, “are ready to step up and be leaders.”
Competition on the court
Despite the presence of Sean Stoqua, who missed last season due to injury but is planning to play both football and basketball again in 2014-2015, and a highly regarded point guard named Ben Miller, Simmonds says he should still start.
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He is looking forward to competition at his position.
“Competition is a great thing to have, and all good teams have good players at every position,” he said.
“We may end up with two of us playing at the same time,” as the roster would appear to have several players who can play more than one position.
Eye on the ball
Simmonds said he has trained really hard all summer, spending time both on his game and on weight training.
“I made the decision to spend the summer here,” he said. “It was my first time living away from home, but it was a great experience.”
He is looking forward to starting training camp and then the exhibition season, which begins Oct. 3.
“I can’t wait to get started,” he said.
He’s also looking forward to taking more of a leadership role in his third season with the Axemen.
“Coach Baur and I talked about that before he left,” he said. “I’m ready. Every team I’ve played on, I’ve been one of the leaders, so I’m used to it.”
Simmonds admitted he hasn’t really nailed down yet what he would like to do with his sociology degree, though he has pretty much decided he will stay with Acadia for a fifth year
“I’ve been interested in maybe becoming a teacher, and social work is another possible option. I’ve always enjoyed working with young kids,” he said.
One thing he does know for sure, he is at Acadia for the long-term.
“I have no regrets at all over coming here,” he said. “I’ve never regretted my decision.”
Simmonds is also excited about the new players joining the Axemen this fall.
“I’ve met a lot of them already, and I have a good relationship with all of them,” he said.
C.P. Allen graduate Nick DePalma is probably the one Simmonds knows the best, because he is a fellow Nova Scotian.
“When I was in Grade 12, he was in Grade 10,” he said. “Even then, he was a good player. We had some great battles.”