By Nick Beaulieu, Contributor
Junior guard Justin Simmons has filled a role the Mavs have so desperately needed in 2012/13. The graduation of former leading scorer Mitch Albers left the team without a reliable scorer.
But Simmons has picked up the slack, averaging 14.6 points on the season and 20.5 in his last eight games. Some of that scoring success can be attributed to improving his 3-point shot, something Simmons has been focusing on lately.
Simmons changed his shot back to the form he developed his last year in junior college.
“Last year my shooting percentage from three started declining, so [I thought] maybe if I change it, it’ll go up,” Simmons said. “But I wasn’t hitting shots then, so I just basically worked on that after practice more and more, and now I’m comfortable with it.” Switching back to the form he used last year has been an adjustment, requiring plenty of practice to get comfortable.
“[It took] a lot of time,” Simmons said. “[When practicing] I always start shooting 50 to 70 free throws. Then I back up maybe two feet until I get warm and start sweating, then I start working on my 3-point shot from all around. I got to make at least 50 shots from each spot.”
Head coach Darrin Hansen has seen an improvement in Simmons, but he believes it’s more than just changing his shot.
“Honestly, I think it’s the shots he’s taking,” Hansen said.
“Early [on], new players and young players don’t know the ins and outs and the intricacies of the offense and where to get your shots and when to get them within the flow or scope of the offense. I think he understands that much more now, and you kind of know when to push and when to pull and he has a much better understanding of that.”
In his last six games, Simmons has shot 40 percent from long range and made ten 3-pointers. The previous 14 games, Simmons had made only 11 shots from downtown and was shooting just 32 percent.
“I think the efficiency of his shots have gone up,” Hansen said. “In the same respect, so have his makes.”
Against UMKC on Dec. 31, Simmons made four threes. The following game versus Oakland, he hit four.
Simmons believes his success from beyond the arc has helped all aspects of his game.
“When we played IPFW, I heard their coach say ‘I’m a shooter,’ so with that I just basically pump faked and I had multiple easy layups, so that actually helped me out,” Simmons said. “When I heard that I was a shooter, it wasn’t like I was surprised. It was ‘Okay, if they’re going to play me like that, then I might as well use my dribbling ability and get to the rack all the way.'”
Simmons continues to improve week in and week out, and Hansen expects him to just get better.
“He’s a great kid, he has a good work ethic. The guys like being around him, [and] he’s learning and progressing every day in a brand new system,” Hansen said.
“I expect his second semester to be better than his first, and then I expect him to have a really good senior year.”
After struggling to develop the right shot for two years, Simmons believes he’s finally found some normalcy.
“There’s always room for improvement, but I’m more comfortable with how I am shooting now,” Simmons said.
“I’m not going to change my shot again. This is my shot now, and I’m fine with it.”