The Trail Blazers 24th pick of the 2018 NBA Draft is ready to become a household name.
And as Anfernee Simons enters his second season in the league, he has shown no fear in the preseason.
Simons has been looked at as a potential breakout star this upcoming season. Local media and Blazers fans have discussed on social media that this is a kid who plays with an unbelievable amount of confidence.
But for ‘Ant,’ it wasn’t always like that.
“I’ve honestly never been the most confident player,” Simons said after Saturday's practice.
It wasn’t until he was nearly 18 years old, which keep in mind, was just two years ago, that the quiet kid from Orlando, Florida really came into his own.
“In the beginning of high school I wasn’t that confident in my game. I knew I could shoot the ball, but I wasn’t like thinking that I could do everything to where I could score the ball well until I probably got to be almost a senior [in high school].”
Simons also gives a lot of credit to his teammates and Blazers coaching staff in his newfound ability to have faith in himself.
“Last year against the older guys and being able to score against them, do different things against them, that kind of helped gain my confidence, Simons added. “And then the coaches saw that, and they were telling me to be aggressive and stuff like that, that gained my confidence as well.”
Simons has had time to evaluate his preseason play and he feels overall the last few weeks went “pretty well.”
“It’s a learning process. So, I have to be able to learn on the fly and kind of get going quick. I think I’ll be all right when the season starts. I think I learned a lot from the preseason, being put in different situations,” Simons said.
Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was pleased with Simons in his new role of fully being inserted into the rotation, and with a few of the new additions during the preseason.
“You watch our games, I think – Anfernee, Mario [Hezonja], and Kent [Bazemore] I think they’ve all really assimilated well to what we’re doing,” Stotts said.
At the end of September, the Blazers exercised their third-year option on Simons and fourth-year option on Zach Collins to solidify their future in Portland.
Simons took to his twitter account after the news broke, to show his appreciation.
The relationship between Simons and Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard has been strong since Simons was drafted to Portland.
Lillard was just voted the Best Leader in the league in the most recent GMs survey on NBA.com, and it’s easy to see his leadership shine through in Simons.
Lillard’s current advice to Ant:
“He just tells me to be who I am,” Simons said. “ He knows I can score the ball at a high level. He wants me to go out there and be aggressive at all times. Not just trying to shoot the ball, but creating for others as well.”
The second-year player admits it’s hard to ignore all the hype that’s been written and talked about in regards to his upcoming season.
“I’m on social media a lot and a lot of people tag me in stuff, so I see it. It’s good people notice my game and stuff, but I want to prove those people right, so I use that as motivation,” Simons said.
Simons also realizes that he and Collins are going to be two key factors to this season’s success.
That’s why his bond with Collins is starting to grow even more this year.
“We kind of have to gain a certain type of relationship and trust. We’ve got to push each other to be great, and also keep us leveled headed, and keep us calm throughout everything that’s going on around us, all the hype going around us,” Simons said.
There might still be question marks surrounding Simons’ game, but Blazer fans are sure ready to see all the hype come to fruition.