DiDi Simmons Evolving After Injury
Courtesy: Seton Hall Athletic Communications
Watching redshirt sophomore point guard Ka-Deidre Simmons (Newark, N.J.) run the point lately for the Seton Hall University women's basketball team, it would be hard to tell that the Pirates' explosive court general is coming back from a serious knee injury suffered just a year ago.
As Seton Hall prepares to open BIG EAST action at home against Pittsburgh on Saturday, Jan. 5, Simmons looks better than ever guiding the Pirate offense. She has scored in double figures in five-straight games, averaging 14.4 points and 5.8 assists per game over that stretch, which includes a 12 point, 10 assist performance in an 82-35 victory over New Orleans.
But all of this success follows a difficult and lengthy break from collegiate action where Simmons recovered for a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
The injury was suffered just a week into preseason activity, as Simmons prepared for what should have been her sophomore season in 2011-12. A BIG EAST All-Freshman honoree in 2010-11, she made 27 starts and appeared in all 30 games for Seton Hall during her first season, averaging 7.2 points and 3.4 assists per game.
A vigorous offseason workout regimen that saw Simmons put in work every day in the gym, in addition to competing in and practicing for summer tournaments, had her poised to take her game to another level as a sophomore, but that opportunity had to be postponed.
"I think that was the most disappointing part for me," Simmons said. "I had trained so much and was just so ready for the season and I didn't get the chance to show my improvements."
The injury came in a pickup game during a typical day of preseason activities and at first Simmons didn't really think much of getting hurt. An awkward fall where she experienced a few moments of intense pain that dissipated quickly, her first instinct was to stay on the court.
She thought better of it though, and heading the advice of athletic trainer Margeritte Carlson to report any problem no matter how seemingly minor, went down to the training room and eventually a doctor's office where she received the diagnosis.
"I was hurt and I didn't want to believe it at first," said Simmons. "My friend just tore hers the year before and that summer I was thinking about how I couldn't imagine going through that and then it happened to me. It was hard and really disappointing."
Following a couple of weeks of rehab, surgery came toward the end of September and Simmons was back in the training room the very next day to start the arduous rehabilitation process.
Having never suffered any sort of major injury up to that point in her basketball career, for Simmons rehab was an understandably frustrating process. Coming back from an ACL injury takes hard work and patience, incremental steps toward a difficult long-term goal. It would be four months before she even received clearance to start working on jumping and shooting drills again, and seven months before being approved for on-court basketball activity.
"It was tough, rehab was the most frustrating part," Simmons said. "Coming in every day, working on the same things, trying to get range of motion back; you take baby steps. You start to think you are ready, but no, you aren't ready yet."
Finally Simmons was able to play full court over the summer and she was ready to participate in the Pirates' preseason program when the team reconvened after summer break, something that was a little bit daunting in the beginning.
"It was great to be back but at first it was nerve wracking because around the time we started preseason was when I got injured," Simmons said. "So I was thinking, this is the week, this is the day, but I had been preparing all summer so I felt good getting back."
There was actually a pair of challenges that Simmons faced as she prepared for the 2012-13 season. Not only getting her body ready for the rigors of a full season but also taking on an evolving role in the Pirates' offensive system.
The physical hurdles came first. Simmons did not want to get back on the court with any doubts about her ability to play and through positive reinforcement from her coaches and teammates she was able to make it back without questions about her ability and physical preparedness weighing in the back of her mind.
She started the season-opening victory over NJIT, scoring 12 points with four assists and six rebounds in 35 minutes, and that is when she started to progress towards being a more aggressive offensive player. In addition to excelling while running the offense and distributing the basketball, Simmons also enjoys some rare physical gifts, explosive speed and court vision, which enable her to succeed when she looks for her own shot as well.
Never the type of point guard to think about getting to the rim herself first, Simmons has been adjusting to that new role throughout the first half of the season and if recent results are any indication, she is making big strides toward becoming a complete offensive threat at the point. The knee injury from a year ago is in the rearview mirror and the future should see continued growth on the court.
"It was kind of frustrating at first but Coach Donovan told me it's going to come, just play, and I definitely feel like I am finally getting into the flow," Simmons said. "I'm just trying to be consistent, take the things we work on in practice and apply it in games. I need to be a threat more and that is what I am trying to do."