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Boys Basketball Player of the Year: Sky's the limit for D'Marcus Simonds as he moves on to Ga. State
Gainesville's D'Marcus Simonds (10) passes the ball off to his teammate Messiah Dorsey (23) during a 2016 game against Lanier in Gainesville. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

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For his sake, and for the sake of Sun Belt basketball, I hope D’Marcus Simonds always has someone to prove wrong at Georgia State.

Even if it’s a knucklehead in the opposing stands with a goofy sign or a particularly loud student section giving him a heckle, I hope D’Marcus does what he’s always done during his high school career.

“When I look at that student section, I’ll walk by and they’ll say the craziest thing I can think of, so I’ll just put that in my mind and say, ‘This next one’s for you,’ said Simonds in an interview last November. “There are even some coaches that will sit on the bench, I’ll dribble by and they’ll say something nasty. I’ll just look at them and say ‘All right, here we go.’”

The four-star shooting guard will graduate from Gainesville High this spring after two transcendent seasons in the red and white.

Immediately after transferring from Buford High following his sophomore year, Simonds became an on-the-court general of his Red Elephants teammates, in a show-me style that was as close to a quarterback as you could see on the hardwood.

His greatest moments came when the spotlight shined brightest. Of course, there was his monster 34-point performance in Gainesville’s heartbreaking second-round loss earlier this year at McIntosh. But before that was his three-dunk showcase at Buford in his first return to the Wolves’ floor.

And no one in attendance could dare forget his miraculous last-second game-winning buzzer beater he dropped at then No. 1 seed North Atlanta in the 2015 playoffs.

It’s easy to talk about D’Marcus Simonds in numbers, like the fact that he bumped his nightly rate from 22.5 points per game to 25 and raised his rebounds per game and assists per game.

But I prefer to measure his games in reactions.

Like how he completed a booming alley-oop off the inbounds from teammate Messiah Dorsey against Flowery Branch, then flapped his arms like they were wings all the way back down the court, for the enjoyment of his future coach Ron Hunter, who was watching in the stands.

Or how he wagged his tongue in approval after nailing a particularly sweet shot against Loganville in this season’s 8-AAAAA quarterfinal.

Or how he screamed up at the Gainesville gym ceiling that night he recorded a triple-double with five blocks in a blowout win over Lanier.

“His potential is limitless,” said Gainesville coach Benjie Wood. “The sky is the ceiling for him. He’s an unbelievable athlete and an unbelievable competitor.”

Wood saw Simonds’ passion from the beginning. His first game with the Red Elephants, Wood recalls, was at a small tournament in Alabama. A parent from a Mississippi team Gainesville was playing had started heckling Simonds, according to Wood, which naturally caused Simonds to drain Gainesville’s next eight points.

“He’s got that competitive instinct,” said Wood. “When he feels challenged, he can take the game over.”

It’s clear that Simonds won’t need to spend too much time on the bench once he enters Georgia State’s system. With his skill set, basketball IQ and court leadership, he’s a guaranteed Division I baller.

I hope that attracts haters. Because that’s how we see the best from D’Marcus Simonds.

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