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Simmons out to show that leaving Arizona was no mistake
By BOB BAUM
Kobi Simmons came to the University of Arizona a year ago as a five-star recruit looking to take over the Wildcats backcourt, maybe the brightest jewel in another impressive recruiting class for coach Sean Miller.
It didn't work out that way.
Simmons played a little at point guard, but that job usually fell first to senior Kadeem Allen, and when healthy, to Parker Jackson-Cartwright.
Simmons was moved to the off-guard position. And when Allonzo Trier returned from his substance abuse suspension, he became the starter at off guard and Simmons played as a reserve.
He won't talk about those days.
"I don't think about that. That's behind me," he said after a pre-draft workout with the Phoenix Suns on Monday. "Right now I've got to focus on me, raising my stock and I'm getting better every day, grooming in the gym when I'm back home and then coming out here and doing it."
He was surrounded by high-quality talent at Arizona, Simmons finished sixth on the team in scoring at Arizona.
His ex-Arizona teammates Trier and Rawle Alkins, tested the NBA waters and chose to return to what should be a loaded Wildcat squad.
But one season in college was enough for Simmons.
The 19-year-old from Atlanta, Georgia, hired an agent and never looked back. His mission, he said, is to prove to coaches and general managers that he can play point guard at the NBA level.
"Me playing point guard, seeing the floor. I played well off the pick and roll," Simmons said. "At school I was playing off the ball so I was relying on another player bringing the ball down the court. Teams rely on me being a vocal leader."
Suns assistant general manager Pat Connelly calls Simmons an "intriguing" point guard prospect.
"The first time I saw him, he went to Treviso (Italy) with an Adidas team and played the point guard there," Connelly said. "It was very intriguing.
"Obviously he played off the ball for Arizona, which was best for his team. Today it's 3-on-3, looking for reads are limited because it is 3-on-3. But he looked solid playing the pick-and-roll. Obviously extremely athletic so his continued growth in that position will be something to evaluate."
Simmons knows it's a learning experience, even as he tries to impress.
He played the point at the draft combine. That helped. And the thought of an extremely athletic 6-foot-5, 166-pound point man is tantalizing, no matter how raw the player is now.
Mock drafts mention him uniformly in the second round, with projected picks ranging from 51st overall to Denver to 58th to the New York Knicks. One picked him for the Suns as the 54th choice overall.
But there is a chance he won't be drafted at all, a gamble he was willing to take.
"I'm not thinking about it right now," Simmons said. "I'm locked and loaded right now of me grinding it, raising my stock every day and looking forward to my next goal."
Six players worked out for the Suns on Monday, including first-team All-American guard Josh Hart of Villanova. Others who took part were guard Troy Caupain of Cincinnati, forward Tidjane Keita of France, forward Kyle Kuzma of Utah and forward Johnathan Motley of Baylor.
The winner of the end-of-practice 3-minute run was Hart.
The Suns have the No. 4 pick overall, and two selections in the second round. They get the second pick of the second round, the 31st overall, and the 54th choice overall.
Updated May 29, 2017