When somebody has the nickname “Ant,” you have to wonder where that came from. I mean, it’s not one of the more common names you hear for people. And in the case of Anfernee Simons, it kind of sounds like his first name but it would be a lot more like that if his first name was Anthony.
So where did that whole “Ant” thing come from?
Simons says: “My mom.”
“Yeah, a lot of people couldn’t pronounce my name," he said. "And she just said, ‘Ant.' It’s much easier. When someone asks me for my name at a restaurant, I always use someone else’s name. I just tell them, ‘John’ or something. An easy name.”
So even though he was named after the famous NBA player, Anfernee Hardaway, people still don’t get it?
“They don't,” he said. “But a lot of people knew him as ‘Penny.’”
True. And Penny quit playing a dozen years ago, too. In fact, Simons has known Hardaway’s son, Jayden, since fifth grade. Jayden has since gone on to play for his father, now the coach at his alma mater, Memphis.
Simons is going to be called upon to accept a lot of responsibility with the Trail Blazers this season as a combo guard, expected to handle things for the second unit when Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum leave the floor.
And that’s going to be a big job for a player who played only 141 minutes last season as a rookie, over just 20 games.
“I am going to have more responsibility,” he said, “but I don’t think it’s more pressure. I just go out there and play my game and don’t talk about what I’m going to do.”
He’s a very confident player, that was obvious during his rookie season. And he has terrific explosiveness and scoring skills. The team’s president of basketball operations, Neil Olshey, has called him “The most gifted player I’ve ever drafted.”
“That was good for my confidence,” Simons said. “I just want to go out there and play hard, show what I can do and get better.”
He will have some point guard to play with the second unit, but he’s comfortable with that.
“I just go out there and play free,” he said. “I play my game and choose which shots are the right ones and when to pass. Pretty much everyone here can shoot. Everybody’s real versatile. It’s not hard to know who to pass to and when.”
And granted, he’s going to be carrying a heavy load in that new role. But that’s what ants do, right? It's perfect, but in case you didn’t know it, ants can lift 5,000 times their body weight.