July 13, 2009
Lone incoming women's basketball freshman Sarina Simmons joins the Golden Eagles from Rufus King High School in Milwaukee. A top-100 recruit, Simmons sat down with GoMarquette.com to share her experiences as a freshman adjusting to Division I competition and rigorous academics.
What was the recruitment and signing process like for you in high school?
Marquette has been following me since the beginning of high school. I always wanted to play for a big university and I wanted to play at home in my hometown, so Marquette was an easy decision for me to make as far as basketball and academics. My parents really supported me in making the decision.
How exciting is it to play college basketball in your hometown?
I'm really excited. I have a lot of friends and family members who supported me coming to high school games. It's going to be a big change with them seeing me play in high school to them coming to see me play in college. A lot more people are going to be able to come, so I'm very excited.
How did it feel getting the kind of recognition you did in high school - all-state, ranked No. 8 by the Collegiate Girls Basketball Report, the No. 14 wing recruit by ESPN's Hoopgurlz?
It was nice to be recognized. I didn't know a lot about high school basketball when I came into high school. I didn't know anything about state championships my freshman year, so to be recognized was good because I felt like I stood out from everybody else even though I was part of a team and we worked hard as a team. It was nice to stand out.
What about the Marquette women's basketball program attracted you?
How did some of the adversity you saw in high school make you into a stronger player and person?
I started watching college basketball when I started getting recruited, and I'd come to watch some of the games. The whole atmosphere was good. At Marquette, the whole coaching staff and team seemed unified and family oriented, and that's the type of thing that I value - being close to people that are going to be with you the next four years of my life.
At first when we found the news out about our coach leaving, it was pretty devastating. She was the only coach I played for in high school - I've been at Rufus King all four years. We found out two weeks before the season started, it was like "Wow, what are you going to do," and people were trying to decide whether or not they were still going to play for the season. We went through a lot with the change, trying to get used to the new coaching style and style of play. It was tough, but it made me stronger because I overcame adversity.
How did that bring the team closer?
It was one of the best high school years. The team was very close, we traveled together, in and out of school we were like our own little family. We still talk and everybody still gets along - it's nice.
With other Division I athletes on your roster, what was it like playing with that caliber of teammates?
Most of us have been playing with each other since about seventh grade, so I'd see them and play with them 365 days out of the year between high school and AAU. To me, it was natural since I'd always played with them.
What is the biggest adjustment you've had to make to college basketball?
The biggest transition has been the schedule. I have a lot of responsibility and am accountable for a lot of different things. In high school it wasn't that rigorous - practice after school but I didn't have to work out or lift and I was used to getting my work done. I'm adjusting to the classes now, so that's getting easier for me. I'm just trying to learn how to adjust.
Coach Mitchell referred to you as a versatile player with passion on the court when you signed your Letter of Intent. Is versatility something you've worked on?
I started playing basketball really young and wasn't always the tallest on the court, so when I started playing I usually had to play point guard with the guys. That was hard, but something I had to do. When I was in middle school, I started growing, and in high school I was one of the tallest players so I started developing an inside game. Overall I became a better player.
On the court, what do you think the biggest change you'll have to make will be?
Probably the biggest change is listening to instructions. (In high school) Usually my coaches would give us instructions but they trust us with our own decision making. We had plays but a lot that we did was on our own, being patient and knowing the style of play of our teammates.
What have your summer workouts been like?
I didn't know it was going to be this hard. I'm managing now, but I'm just making sure I'm playing and staying active and trying not to waste a lot of my time just sitting around. I'd never done anything like the strength and conditioning workouts before - knowing I have to get into the weight room every day was never a requirement for me and I never had a consequence if I didn't show up. I'm not trying to find out what that consequence is though.
Have your teammates helped you adjust?
My teammates try to give me a heads up, like, "Watch out for this and that," and stay hydrated and check up on me. Sometimes they peak in the weight room to see how much torture I'm going through, but it's okay - they're helpful.
What is a typical day like for you this summer?
Every morning, I go to class for about an hour and 40 minutes. Then I go to study skills, another class, workouts, and tutoring. My day is pretty much from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The Eagles Nest has been very helpful for me. It's always different when you come from somewhere else. When I went to high school, it was a whole new experience and I had to learn how to cope with the academic pressure, and coming to college I have to do it all over again. I'm adjusting really well.
What are your personal goals going into the season right now? Team goals?
I want to become well-rounded, and do all I can to be a better athlete and student. I'm really looking forward to pre-season; I can't wait until the first game tips off. What Coach Terri Mitchell has been pounding in my head is that she wants to make the NCAA Tournament and win the national championship, and I think that is a good team goal for us.
How has living on campus with teammate Tatiyiana McMorris been?
It's really different. I've never been in a house with just one other person - sometimes it's quiet and sometimes we'll sit around and watch a movie and other teammates will come down. It's different, but I like it. Usually I don't get to see the team so much because I'm usually working out with the freshmen on men's basketball team and on the soccer team - I see them more than I see my own teammates, it's just a part of my schedule. When I do get to see my teammates, it's all laughs and we'll enjoy playing pickup games in the gym. I've met a lot of new people - people I never thought I'd talk to. We're bonding and encouraging each other in our studies and our workouts. My teammates tell me that people I know now that I'm going to class or workouts with all day every day are the people I'll hold bonds and relationships with the whole time here.