Ohio’s Jaaron Simmons shoots over Bowling Green and Wayne grad Rodrick Caldwell in a February game at the Convocation Center in Athens. David Jablonski/Staff

Alter grad Simmons gets OK from OU for NBA draft

Jaaron Simmons is hoping to fulfill a recurring dream after the Ohio University redshirt junior declared for the upcoming NBA draft earlier this week.

Alter High School’s leading all-time scorer, Simmons announced his intention through the university’s athletic website. He followed up on Twitter and Instagram about his ultimate desire to play at the highest level: “I been having the same dream since the day I was born.”

He told OU officials he did not intend to hire an agent. Like many top collegiate players who aren’t certain lottery picks, Simmons intends to participate in the NBA Draft Combine May 9-14 at Chicago. For invites only, that consists of a series of physical and aptitude tests that NBA teams use to determine a player’s draft status.

Combine participants are eligible to return to their collegiate programs if they opt out of the NBA draft by May 24. The NBA draft will be held June 24 at a location to be determined. Simmons was unavailable for comment.

A 6-foot-1, 184-pound play-making guard, Simmons has been outstanding for the Bobcats the last two seasons after transferring from Houston, where he played as a freshman. He averaged 15.9 points and 6.5 assists for Ohio (20-11 overall, 11-7 Mid-American Conference) this season.

Simmons upped that scoring average to 17.2 in MAC play and 20.3 after taking over the role of OU point guard Antonio Campbell, who was lost for the remainder of the season with injury for OU’s final 16 games.

Simmons tallied a season-high 38 points against MAC champion Akron and was named first team all-conference.

Simmons surpassed 1,000 career points this season and was eighth in the nation among NCAA Division I players in assists. The previous season he was third in the nation in assists. He also set the all-time MAC single-season assists record in 2015-16, his first with the Bobcats.

“Jaaron’s decision is a smart one in today’s world of basketball,” OU coach Saul Phillips said in a release. “Having a clear idea of where you stand in terms of the draft is a good idea. We are extremely supportive of Jaaron’s decision to declare for the draft.”

Simmons led surprising Alter to the Division II state final four as a senior in 2013, Joe Petrocelli’s last after coaching the Knights for 50 years. Initially courted by Dayton and Wright State, Simmons instead signed with Houston over Western Michigan and Wichita State and others.

A back-up guard at Houston, he played in every game as a freshman and appeared destined to be a Cougars standout. That changed when James Dickey was fired as coach and Simmons pursued a transfer to OU.

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