Jaiun Simon got to see it all on his visit to the University of Dayton the weekend of Oct. 15.
“I really liked the locker room,” Simon said. “The arena’s nice. At the Red & Blue Game, I really liked how the fans were into it. I met pretty much everybody: the AD; the trainer; the whole coaching staff.”
Simon met all the Dayton Flyers players, too, and reconnected with sophomore forward Kaleb Washington, who was his teammate at Pebblebrook High School in Mableton, Ga., in the 2019-20 season. Simon heard all about Obi Toppin’s legacy with the Dayton Flyers as well.
Simon, a 6-foot-7, 215-pound forward, also watched Dayton practice and liked what he saw. The style matches his game.
“They pretty much play a four out, one in, kind of like an inverse with the bigs,” Simon said, “and sometimes I can go down low or go up high. When I’m up high, I’m a mismatch for the bigs on me. I can play a lot of positions, so I really fit in their offense.”
Simon announced his verbal commitment to the Flyers on Thursday, 12 days after sitting behind the Dayton bench during the Red & Blue Game. He became the first member of the 2023 recruiting class to pick Dayton.
“It was just a good environment,” Simon said. “Everybody was really nice. There was really good hospitality. And (committing) just felt like the right thing to do.”
Simon first heard from Dayton about a year ago at this time. Assistant coach Darren Hertz was his main point of contact. Pebblebrook coach George Washington said Dayton coaches came down to watch Simon play in June at a high school camp, fell in love with him there and told him they were going to keep recruiting him. Simon received a scholarship offer in July.
“They just stayed the course and kept coming back and built a relationship,” Washington said. “My kids are really big on relationships. So whoever builds the relationship with them has a great chance to get them. It came down to (Dayton), Georgia State and South Florida. Wichita State was in there a lot, too. Hertz did a really good job of recruiting him and building that relationship with the family.”
Washington has known Simon since he was a baby because he taught Simon’s mom in high school at Pebblebrook.
“He’s very versatile and has really big motor,” Washington said. “He’s a really good student and a hard worker. He’s in the gym early in the morning and in the gym late at night.”
Demond McCullough has known Simon since sixth grade and coached him last summer with Game Elite, an AAU program in Atlanta.
“He’s a special kid,” McCullough said. “He’s young. He just turned 17 in August. He’s going to grow some more. He’s a winner. I think (Dayton) really stole one with this one.”
McCullough said Simon didn’t play much last summer because he was going through some growing pains, which led to back and groin issues. He didn’t get a chance to showcase his game and explosiveness. Simon said he’s just now getting back to full health after seven months of various ailments.
McCullough accompanied Simon on his visit to Dayton during the weekend of the Red & Blue Game. McCullough also said Dayton’s offense fits Simon’s skills. Like a number of Dayton’s recent recruits, Washington is a versatile player with size and length.
“Defensively, he can probably (guard) one through five,” McCullough said. “He’s a matchup nightmare. He’s too shifty for a big and too crafty in the post for a small. Dayton got a good one. He’s not a typical player in the 2023 class because it’s not about him scoring 20 or 25 points. He’ll do whatever it takes for them to win. He’s a Swiss Army knife. He’s just really low maintenance, a hard worker, a good kid with a big upside.”
Simon has been on the varsity team since his freshman season and has started since he was a sophomore. He averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds last season as a junior.
“Jaiun’s a defensive-minded guy,” Washington said. “He’s sometimes too selfish at times, but he loves getting his teammates involved. His numbers have suffered because he’s unselfish.”
Pebblebrook finished 28-3 last season and was ranked No. 1 in Class 6A when it lost to No. 3 Berkmark in the state semifinals. Simon will have a bigger role in his senior year because he will become the team’s go-to player. The other four starters last season graduated.
“I‘m really looking forward to it,” Simon said. “It’s new to me, but at some point, I’ve always had the pressure on me. It’s going to be different, but I don’t think it’s going to be that hard for me.”
“We were a different team last year,” Washington said. “Jaiun was almost a five really, and we played four guards. Nobody could keep up with us. We just ran people to death like it was a track meet. The goal was to get a shot up within 10 seconds of a shot clock, and the guys loved that. Teams just couldn’t match our scoring. This year, we will be a more defensive-minded team.”