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Penn men's basketball senior Jarrod Simmons took to cooking and painting while quarantining.

Credit: Joshua Berkowitz

The Daily Pennsylvanian asked Penn men's basketball’s Jarrod Simmons 15 questions about his sport, his time at Penn, and his life overall. Here's what the senior had to say.

1.  Can you introduce yourself?

My name’s Jarrod Simmons and I’m from Pittsburgh. I’m a senior at Penn, majoring in Communications, and I’m a captain of the men's basketball team this year.

2.  Did you grow up with other athletes in the family?

I’m the oldest of three, with two younger sisters who both play volleyball. Sanaea is a freshman on the team at Holy Cross, and Amalia is a sophomore in high school who just committed to play for Michigan. My Dad ran track at Seton Hall and actually ran at Penn Relays, so yes, a bunch of athletes in the Simmons bloodline.

3.  When did you first discover a love for basketball?

So, I came up playing football, basketball and running track. In western Pennsylvania, we’re football crazy, a lot of die-hard Steelers fans over here. People always used to say, “the only reason you play basketball is to stay in shape for football.” I eventually went to prep school in Boston for ninth grade, and just the experience of being around the guys and seeing basketball taken more seriously, it was there where I really started to lock in on the sport I love.

4.  Which three words would you use to describe yourself?

Outgoing, goofy, and passionate.

5.  Who is your ultimate sports idol and why?

Usain Bolt. When Bolt won the Olympics, I changed my Wii character and named him “Bolt.” Given that my dad is from Trinidad and Tobago as well, it was awesome watching someone from there break all of those records. His height, his acceleration, and his skills definitely motivate me, being as tall as I am.

6.  Do you have any gameday rituals?

So, the only gameday ritual I have, there’s going to be a 50-minute nap. I don’t know where it’s going to happen, but I have to take that before game time. Then, right before the game what we’ll usually do is a warmup drill called “Cavemen.” Nothing formal, we just kind of run around and bump into each other a little bit. Coach Graham and Coach Montgomery are really into WWE, so they’ll get into it. It just adds a lighthearted feel and fun aspect to remind us to really enjoy the game and still take care of business. 

7.  What is your favorite part of playing basketball for the Red and Blue?

The friendships I’ve made for sure. I love the camaraderie of the program and being able to meet all of these different people that come from different backgrounds. Also, witnessing the success my teammates have had. Knowing I was able to make lifelong friendships keeps me coming back every day.

8.  Do you have a favorite class you have taken at Penn?

COMM 388, “Ritual Communication,” taught by Dr. Felicity Paxton, or as we call her, “Litty Paxton.” One of the projects pushes you to get out of your comfort zone to write an ethnography. You write about somewhere you haven’t been immersed into the culture so you can take an outsider’s perspective. My teammate Eddie Scott and I decided to go to a rodeo, and it was really cool to be a part of something that we probably wouldn’t have experienced without this class and Dr. Paxton. 

9.  What is your favorite basketball memory ever?

My senior year of high school I came back from Boston to Pittsburgh and went to Moon Area High School. Moon Area hadn’t made the playoffs in 15 years and hadn’t won a championship in 17 years. We won the championship my senior year. Having an impact on the community and being able to reconnect with longtime friends was an experience I’ll never forget.

10.  How do you feel you have grown since you were a freshman walking into your first practice in the Palestra?

I mean I have a mustache and hair now, no I’m kidding. I think the biggest things are responsibility and gratitude. When I came to campus, I was focused on myself and getting myself prepared to be the best player I could be. In every team sport you start to learn that you have responsibilities to be there for your teammates and hold yourself accountable. Gratitude because people leave every year, so I’m extremely grateful for all of the friends I’ve met along the way. You have to live in the moment as much as you can. 

11.  Did you develop any new hobbies over quarantine?

I picked up cooking and painting, which I hadn’t done for a while. My mom helps out with COVID relief at our church, so we give out boxes of food every Wednesday. If there’s ever leftover boxes I would always just fool around and see what I could put together. I also started to paint canvases and put them up on the walls of my room. I needed some decorations. 

12.  Are you currently binging any shows?

I actually am not, mainly because I’ve been binging homework for the past three or four weeks here. Once school eases up, I’m definitely going to watch 50 Cent’s show, Power Book II: Ghost. I used to watch every episode with my teammates Jelani [Williams] and Antonio [Woods] like every day, so we’ll watch this new season when we all have the time for sure. 

13.  What do you hope to be remembered by here at Penn?

I hope they remember my personality more than anything, my lightheartedness and my ability to just talk to people. We’re all human beings and it’s more about how we connect to and relate to each other than how many threes I hit in my time here. I hope they remember me as a loyal person and a good friend.

14.  What’s next for you after you graduate?

I’m actually not 100% sure with that. I might still have some basketball to play especially with this year’s circumstances. Fingers crossed there is a season here and I can get something out of it, but if there isn’t, then there might be another step I take for the next year. I’m just staying optimistic and I’m definitely thinking basketball for the next couple of years until I figure out exactly what I want to do.

15. What’s your biggest piece of advice to someone looking to one day be in your shoes as a Division 1 basketball player?

I know it sounds cliché, but I would say the biggest thing is to never give up on yourself. I just think you really have to bet on yourself and understand what makes you special. No matter what happens along the way there’s going to be ups and downs. Stay strong in who you are and if you just believe in yourself, it’ll all come together.

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