New Mexico basketball has just a handful of returning players, none of whom were relied on to show. That means plenty of new faces could have a chance to make an immediate impact as the team gets ready for a fresh start.
Jachai Simmons, a 6-foot-7-inch tall guard/forward, is one of the many new additions to the Lobo roster. The junior transfer showed a lot of promise and was a player that the University of New Mexico’s new head coach Paul Weir took notice of.
“Very talented player...I followed him from his freshman year at junior college,” Weir said. “When I watched him, he was one of the best junior college players in the country. His potential and upside is as big as anybody’s on this team.”
He said if the team can get Simmons back to the level he was playing at a couple of years ago, the Lobos could have something special on their hands.
Simmons, a native of Plainfield, New Jersey, said there have been several things he’s needed to get adjusted to. He said he is used to being in a fast-paced city, but things seem to move much slower in New Mexico.
Another major change was the altitude, something he said was very different even coming from Las Cruces to Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“When I first got here, it was a struggle for the first couple of weeks,” he said. “It was hard for me to breathe and stuff, but now it’s coming along.”
Simmons said everyone on the team has gotten used to Weir’s conditioning routines and having so many new teammates is something he has grown accustomed to.
“Coming from a (junior college), it’s always like that every year,” Simmons said. “So far, we’re all clicking. It’s looking really good for us.”
One person that didn’t sound surprised to hear Simmons seemed to be fitting in was his twin sister, Janeia Simmons. She said she remembered asking her brother how he was going to move to Midland Junior College to play with a bunch of people he’d never even met.
But he did so and fit in just fine. Janeia Simmons said the experience helped create a different type of game for her brother. She said he plays a totally different game than he did in high school and knows he can elevate it even more, adding, “I’m not just saying that because he’s my brother.”
She said Lobo fans should be excited and expect Simmons to showcase his all-around game — saying whether the team needs a big three-point shot or a fancy dunk, her brother has the ability to do what is needed.
Jachai Simmons said he considers himself to be a “big guard” and surprises a lot of people with his dribbling skills and apparent versatility off the court as well.
“A lot of people don’t know that I can sing and I can play instruments,” he said. “Drums, guitar and the piano...I’m a little bit of a one-man band.”
The twins share a love of both music and basketball. Jachai Simmons said another thing they have in common is that they are both “clowns” that have the same sense of humor.
But both Jachai and Janeia Simmons joked that, even though they are twins, the two couldn’t be more different from each other. The biggest difference might be the height, as Simmon’s sister stands over a foot shorter at 5-feet-6-inches tall.
“We both enjoy music, playing basketball, spending time together...We are very family-oriented,” Janeia Simmons said. “We love each other, you know.”
She said the two are very close and are typically on the phone so much that they don’t have a chance to miss each other — saying if he isn’t playing basketball or in class, they are usually talking.
“I know when Jachai is down; I know when there is a problem,” Janeia Simmons said. “I don’t know how I know, but I know. We definitely have that connection.”
Jachai Simmons said he felt a little lost the first day on campus but eventually figured things out as he normally does. He said he has enjoyed meeting new people and the positive, care-free environment on campus at UNM.
Weir described Simmons as a “fun kid” that everyone loves to be around and has been a big part of creating a team environment. Lobo fans probably have good cause to think the attributes he possesses can help bind this team together and potentially build something special.
Robert Maler is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers basketball, football and tennis. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @Robert_Maler