While the Rochelle varsity boys basketball team surged up the Interstate 8 Conference standings during the second half of the 2019-20 season, the sophomore boys were quietly putting together one of the program’s most successful campaigns in recent history.
The sophomore Hubs dominated throughout their season, finishing 24-5 overall while winning the Interstate 8 Conference to bring home Rochelle’s first conference championship at the sophomore level in 11 years. One player who had a significant role in the sophomore team’s success was Ryan Simmons, who also earned the opportunity to start on the varsity level.
If there were any doubts about whether or not Simmons was ready to compete against varsity basketball players, those were cast aside during the IHSA 3A Regional Semifinals, where Rochelle defeated the Sterling Golden Warriors for the first time since 2015. Simmons was the unlikely spark plug in that game, scoring a season-best 15 points behind six first-half field goals including three 3-pointers. His 10 first-quarter points were the most from any RTHS player.
“We all want to win a regional championship next season,” Simmons said. “I thought both the sophomore and varsity team did well offensively, but I think we can improve on defense next season. As a junior, I want to average at least 15 points per game and I want to rebound more. I played AAU basketball over the summer and I have been trying to get better on my own.”
Simmons will see his role increase as a rising junior next winter, when the Hubs will look to follow up a 20-win varsity season and replace three graduating senior starters. Although he wasn’t the focal point of the offense in every game, Simmons had moments where he showcased his scoring ability, totaling 10 points and making two 3-pointers in a blowout victory over the Ottawa Pirates, a game in which Rochelle knocked down a season-best 16 triples. Simmons converted four 3-pointers for 12 points in the season-finale win over LaSalle-Peru.
“I thought I could’ve played better, but I helped the team wherever I was needed,” Simmons said. “I thought I did a good job of passing the ball and helping my teammates get open shots. I think I can be more confident when I’m on the court next season. I thought the sophomores did really well and I can’t wait to play with them on the varsity level next season.”