Whitehaven basketball is on a mission. The goal is a state championship after falling one win short in 2018.
This is the final attempt for Simmie Jones. He’ll take on a major role as the Tigers’ lone senior.
“The leadership role is here is very important,” Jones said. “My teammates push me every day to be more of a leader to them. All of us lead each other but without them I wouldn’t be the leader that I am today.”
What Jones is today is more than just a hooper. He’s a young man well liked in the school community. He’s a scholar as well, with a 4.1 GPA.
“He’s a phenomenal young man,” Whitehaven coach Faragi Phillps said. “He’s locked in when it pertains to what our expectations are academically. He goes above and beyond to do what’s necessary to be the best that he can possibly be.”
Going above and beyond means early mornings and late nights.
“Well I mean it’s tough,” Jones said. “It’s definitely not the regular student. But I mean when you got practice, you got other things you gotta do for school so you gotta do your homework at night. You may have to stay up a little later but I mean if you wanna do it that’s what you’re going to have to do.”
Jones and his teammates are held to a high standard. It’s deeper than basketball.
“Coach Phillips makes it very important for us to do our grades,” he said. “I mean he don’t let you play unless you got a 2.5. And my parents also don’t let me play unless I have very good grades. So, I just do the best I can in the classroom and on the court and I leave it at that.”
Phillips’ goal is to develop a winning program on all levels.
“Well it’s a requirement,” he said. “It’s a requirement to be a part of our program. To be a kid with character and some integrity. We understand they’re going to make mistakes. They’re not going to do the things that we want them to do all the time the right way. But part of what we do here is try to create an environment where they understand it’s important to represent your team, your community, your parents and yourself in a positive way.”
It's no doubt that Jones is showing his teammates the way on and off the court.
“He’s committed to everything,” Phillips said. “Most times or oftentimes you have players that kind of shuffle back and forth between athletics and academics. One may get more shine than the other but for him it’s just as important to be a student as it is to be an athlete.”
Winning in the classroom and on the court. Jones aims to continue this trend with one more item to check off the list.
“We lost last year,” Jones said. “We came in second. We only got one more goal and that’s become a state championship. Especially for me since I’m a senior. This is my last year so that’s our goal.”
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