One of New Jersey’s finest female basketball stars, Ka-Deidre “Di Di” Simmons, is looking to make a lifelong dream come true as she battles for a roster spot on the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun.
Simmons, who led Malcolm X Shabazz HS to three consecutive New Jersey state basketball titles and who most recently left Seton Hall University as the Pirates second-leading scorer (1,717 points), signed a training camp contract with the Sun on April 23, 2015.
Simmons, who was a two-time Big East First-Team selection for the Pirates, will be reunited with her former SHU and current Sun coach Anne Donovan.
The Sun, who finished last in the WNBA – Eastern Conference standings in 2014, open their preseason schedule on May 23 against Indiana at the Yum Center in Louisville, KY.
Simmons, who was born and raised in Newark, took some time during a break in the Suns training camp at Mohegan Sun (Uncasville, Ct) to speak with Double G Sports correspondent Bob Whitney.
Double G: How did you first get started in basketball?
Simmons: Let’s see, I think I was pretty young, maybe three years old. My brother Edwin took me under his wing and was so instrumental in my development. But I always played with the boys
As I grew older I played basketball with the Ring City AAU team.
Double G: Did you play any other sports?
Simmons: I played two years of tennis in high school. My first year I played doubles and then moved up to singles in my senior year. It helped because my basketball coach was also the tennis coach.
Double G: You had to sit out a year at Seton Hall with an ACL injury, how did you deal with that setback and did it help you become a better player?
Simmons: It was a very humbling experience for me. It took me the better part of a year to get ready to play again but I feel that I became a better player and person after having dealt with a major injury like an ACL.
Double G: What are the strengths of your game?
Simmons: No question my ability to see the whole floor and to create – make things happen – is the best part of my game. I can also get to the rim with either hand, but more so going left. If they are playing me straight up; I can also use my pull-up 10-12 foot jumper. That’s kind of my bread and butter move.
Double G: How has training camp been going for you?
Simmons: No question, it’s a huge challenge for me but I feel that I can play with anyone. Knowing Coach Donovan makes the transition easier because I’m familiar with the drills and her coaching philosophy.
The three point line is a little longer in the WNBA so I have been working very hard on my range; trying to use my legs more to get a better liftoff with my jumper.
Double G: How do you size up your chances to make the ball club?
Simmons: I only have a training camp contract so I’m in a battle for a roster spot. There are so many good players here, but I’m very grateful for this opportunity.
Double G: What are your long term plans after you finish playing basketball?
Simmons: I am definitely going to remain in the game in some capacity whether it be as a coach or maybe even as a referee. Coach Bozzella has told me that I will always be welcome to come back to Seton Hall. I want to be able to give back to others what I have learned over the years.
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