USA U19 Hopeful: Meighan Simmons
Orlando, Fla. • June 4, 2011
As a 2011 USA Basketball Women’s U19 World Championship Team finalist, Meighan Simmons is in Orlando, Fla., this week training alongside 14 other U.S. hopefuls. As part of the ESPN Rise Girls Showcase, the U.S. will take on Brazil in an exhibition game at 12:30 p.m. (EDT) on June 5. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN3.com and replayed on ESPNU on June 6 at 2:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. (EDT).
“Training is going pretty good,” Simmons said. “It’s getting better every day. I’m always learning from my mistakes, as far as turnovers, getting in and getting rebounds and being able to get my teammates involved and also creating shots for myself and for my teammates.”
And while you can’t help but to have some fun while you are staying at the Walt Disney World Resort, this trip is not vacation for any of the 15 finalists because the official 12-member roster for the 2011 USA U19 World Championship Team is expected to be announced following the game.
“It can be distracting at times to be at Disney World, but you have to think about what you’re really here for,” Simmons said. “We are after one goal, and that’s to be prepared to win a gold medal in July.”
The 5-9 guard from Cibolo, Texas, also participated in the 2010 USA U18 National Team Trials and was not selected to the 12-member USA roster. This year, however, Simmons has a year of college under her belt. And after starting in 36 of 37 games to help the University of Tennessee to a 2011 NCAA Tournament Elite Eight appearance, she says she has more confidence, too.
“I took it hard when I didn’t make the team last year,” Simmons said. “I really just thought about what I needed to do and the things I felt I did wrong. I didn’t really understand the whole thing at first – you know, what was it that I was missing that they wanted from me? I just worked on every aspect of the game. I got my mind right for Tennessee, and I think that helped me get back here this year.”
Simmons certainly had a sensational freshman season that included a record-setting performance on Dec. 1, 2010, when she sank eight 3-pointers to set a new high at Tennessee for single-game 3-pointers made. Overall, she averaged 13.5 points, 2.8 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game on the season.
“I think my success just came with a lot of confidence,” Simmons said. “Having my coaches and teammates there to discipline me every day, getting on me to help me learn from my mistakes. I did surprise myself. I broke a record right in the beginning of the season, and that was kind of shocking. I knew I wanted to do something great, and it just came with a lot of hard work.”
Tennessee was stopped short of the Final Four by Notre Dame, and while Simmons admits she was disappointed, she also has perspective on the loss.
“It was tough,” Simmons admitted. “I really wanted to win, and I really thought it would be a blessing to go to the Final Four in my freshman season. It just wasn’t our day. But I don’t dwell on the negative too much. I just think about the positive and continue to move forward.”
For Simmons, moving forward included transitioning from a renowned high school player into a college athlete this past season.
“The hardest adjustment was having a regimen – waking up early, working out, going to class, having practice later in the day, making sure you are eating and eating the right things,” Simmons said. “You have to learn to manage your time with school, basketball and all of the traveling and the homework and studying.”
Simmons will be a sophomore next season, and she’ll be joined at Tennessee by two incoming freshman who also are finalists for the USA U19 World Championship Team – Cierra Burdick (Butler H.S./Matthews, N.C.) and Ariel Massengale (Bolingbrook H.S./Bolingbrook, Ill.).
“Even before we were here, I knew both of them well,” Simmons said. “They are going to make a big impact next year, so I think this – working together and playing on the same team – it’s going to build our chemistry even more. Once we get to Tennessee, things will change, and I think they will be able to show all of the things that they can do.”
In the meantime, Simmons, as well as Burdick and Massengale, are focused on one thing – making the 2011 USA U19 World Championship Team roster. The team will represent the USA in the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship July 21-31 in Puerto Montt and Puerto Varas, Chile.
“Yeah, there is going to be another cut, but if you focus on that you won’t be able to play to your fullest potential,” Simmons said. “So for me, I just come out and play my game and do what I do best. I’m focused on the things that I can do that are going to help the team.
“It would mean a lot to play for USA Basketball. It would mean that I am representing my country, my city, my state, even where I was born. It lets me know that I’m doing something for the good of my country playing the game I love.”