Feb. 10, 2012
by Ken McMillan, Times Herald-Record
WEST POINT - Anna Simmers sees basketball from a different viewpoint, and that has given the Army women's team an added scoring dimension.
While most coaches preach adherence to a rigid system of cut here, pass there and shoot when you have a good shot, Simmers tends to fall back on her old freelance form that made her an all-state high school player in Anchorage, Alaska.
Using good vision, a quick first step and an aggressive on-court nature, Simmers is not afraid to attack a defense. Coupling a decent outside shot with her slashing style, the junior guard has become the top scorer in the Patriot League at 19.5 points per conference game.
"I think she's unquestionably one of the best scorers in the league," said Army coach Dave Magarity.
However, it's not as though Magarity and Simmers have seen eye-to-eye all the time.
"He would call me a streetball player a lot," Simmers chuckled at Magarity's half-joking, half-serious barbs in practice. "I guess it was old habits from high school. I kind of regret it now, but my coach would draw up plays in high school and I was like, 'Why not just go score?' "
Magarity likes Simmers for her athleticism, instincts and toughness, but he admitted to getting frustrated with her for not following through with a progressive set that might set up somebody for a better shot.
"There's times you can look at her game and say she plays a little selfishly," Magarity said, "but she's not a selfish kid. There are times when you would say, 'Why didn't she make the extra pass?' Quite honestly, there are times she is zoned in on scoring and she may miss somebody, but it's not intentional."
Simmers said she is not a great set shooter, like teammates Jen Hazlett or Molly Yardley, but she will take the perimeter jump shot if the defense allows it. Simmers has 22 3-pointers this season, and hit four in Saturday's win over Bucknell. Simmers ranks ninth in the league in overall field-goal shooting (.423) and seventh in free-throw shooting (.707).
"I expected her to be better, but I didn't quite expect this," Magarity said. "She's been very good. She has taken huge, huge strides."
Magarity said Simmers was a "raw talent" when she was recruited, and it didn't help matters when a torn groin during her initial Beast Barracks summer essentially wiped out her freshman year. She returned healthy for her sophomore season, but had a tough time adjusting to Magarity's offensive system, averaging just 2.3 points per game.
"I didn't like the set systems where I was going to run off that screen and pass, pass, pass, shoot," Simmers said. "I am more of an off-the-dribble type of player."
A happy medium has been reached, and the Black Knights have benefitted. Simmers has scored in double digits in 17 of 23 games and has been Army's leading scorer in nine of the past 13, including 28 against Lehigh and 27 against Bucknell.
"Coach is smart," said the 5-foot-9 Simmers, who is forced to play out of position at a forward spot rather than at guard. "He makes plays so our people have freedom to move. He makes it possible for me to do stuff where I don't have to post up 6-foot-5 people."
"She is so explosive, and the matchups are so tough on the opponent," Magarity said. "She's your classic, 'There's no bad shots for you, honey, there's just bad decisions."'
Still, she gives Magarity little heart attacks each game.
"I'll be like, 'Nooooo!' and the ball goes in and I say, 'Good shot.' 'What are you doing? Good shot!' Probably five times a game she does that," Magarity said.