Jaaron Simmons declared for draft, might be UM-bound

James Hawkins, The Detroit News

Michigan may be adding some much-needed experience to its backcourt next season.

Late Monday night, Ohio University redshirt junior Jaaron Simmons announced that he will transfer to Michigan for his final season of eligibility.

Simmons, a 6-foot-1, 184-pound point guard, averaged 15.9 points (43.5-percent shooting), 6.5 assists and 3.5 rebounds in 36 minutes over 31 games last season. He was also a first team All-Mid-American Conference selection.

“Jaaron informed me (Monday) of his intention to transfer to Michigan. We are disappointed with his decision but wish him luck," Ohio coach Saul Phillips said in a statement. "We have known this has been a possibility and have taken steps to make sure the roster is talented and balanced. We are looking forward to the upcoming season.”

Simmons, a Dayton, Ohio native, also had Dayton, Ohio State and Kansas on his short list.

However, there’s one wrinkle: Simmons declared for the NBA draft on March 27 without an agent and has yet to withdraw his name draft consideration.

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Michigan has one scholarship available for next season, which it had been holding for five-star big man Mohamed Bamba. The Wolverines are in Bamba’s final four schools along with Kentucky, Duke and Texas, but that scholarship presumably will go to Simmons.

The Wolverines could possibly have two more scholarships open up if center Moritz Wagner and forward D.J. Wilson decide to leave for the NBA. If they opt to return to Michigan, they’ll need to do so before the NCAA’s May 24 deadline.

Michigan coach John Beilein declined to comment on the possible addition of Simmons following the announcement of the Michigan-Detroit Mercy and Michigan State-Oakland basketball doubleheader at Little Caesars Arena on Tuesday.

Yet Beilein said with Wagner and Wilson mulling the decision to leave for the NBA, “you’ve got to prepare for all options.”

“It’s very tricky,” Beilein said. “A lot of the teams are doing that because of the transfer situation as well. This is good, but it's better than the old thing where kids would just guess whether they should go or not.”

Beilein added he and his staff try to be as transparent as possible in terms of offering more scholarships than are available.

“It's not always possible,” he said. “The minute you tell some young man he might be No. 2 out of 200, he thinks he's No. 200. But you make sure that you (explain), 'We have one scholarship right now, we may have more.' And that's what we tell people.”

Simmons would help fill a need for Michigan as a scorer, distributor and playmaker with Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin both graduating.

While there may be questions about his ability to consistently knock down 3-pointers (36.3 percent for career) and take care of the ball (four turnovers per game last year), Simmons scored at least 20 points in 20 contests and dished out eight or more assists 30 times in 66 career games at Ohio.

If Simmons does end up at Michigan, he would join senior Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, sophomore Xavier Simpson, and incoming freshmen Eli Brooks and Jordan Poole in the backcourt mix. As a grad transfer, Simmons would be eligible to play immediately.

Michigan would also mark Simmons' third collegiate stop. He began his career at Houston in 2013-14 before transferring and playing the past two seasons at Ohio.

“My three years at Ohio University were three of the best years of my life," Simmons said in a statement. "I appreciate my teammates, coaches and fans for making my time here such a great experience. This was very difficult for me, but it’s time for me to take the next step in my academic and athletic career.”

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While Michigan’s schedule for the 2017-18 season is still in the works, Beilein confirmed the Wolverines will host UCLA, play at Texas and their Big Ten/ACC game will be on the road.

“Once again it will be a schedule that will be a very difficult,” he said. “Will it be the top schedule in the country? No, but it'll be one of the top 20, 30 schedules in the country.”

Beilein added there are still four or five games that have to be scheduled.

… Beilein said he’s been staying in contact with Wagner and Wilson, who are both training for the draft back at home.

“Both guys are awaiting the (NBA) combine invites, which should be coming out shortly,” Beilein said. “We're scheduling workouts for them. They have a few scheduled and we'll help and assist them in every way.”


Twitter: @jamesbhawkins