Riley Simmons is just 15 years old and a freshman at Sacred Heart High School. But he has managed to work his way into the starting lineup for the Gremlin varsity basketball team this season.
“I knew if I worked hard and did the things I’m supposed to do, that I had a chance to start,” said Simmons, who transferred this year from Applewood Christian School basketball program to Sacred Heart.
Simmons’ older brother Christopher led the 2004 Sacred Heart Gremlin basketball team to the Class 1 state quarterfinals at Marvin Fleming Field House at Jefferson City High School.
Simmons is off to a good start in the classroom in his first year at Sacred Heart He brought home all straight A’s in his course work in the first quarter. He has not taken the ACT yet. Sacred Heart has not yet tabulated individual academic rankings. Even though college is still more than three years away for Simmons, he pretty much has his heart set on attending Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis.
“I have always liked that school,” said Simmons, who denied knowing anything about legendary basketball coach Al McGuire or the fact McGuire guided Marquette to the NCAA National Championship in 1977.
“I want to major in sports management and I want to play basketball in college,” said Simmons.
Simmons has not yet taken any weighted courses at Sacred Heart, but believes that academics are far more important that athletics.
“Without the academics, you can’t even begin to think about playing sports” he said.
He does not belong to any clubs or associations at Sacred Heart beyond the basketball team. He plans to try out for the spring musical.
Simmons began playing basketball in third grade in the Upward program and played two years of basketball at Applewood as a homeschooler before transferring to Sacred Heart.
He played baseball in the fourth and fifth grade in the Sedalia Little League. The second baseman quit the game when the league folded a few years ago.
Simmons grinned sheepishly when asked about a highlight of his brief high school career.
“It would have to be when we beat Tipton this year 59-57 at Tipton,” he said. “We were down seven in the fourth quarter and we came back to win.” He scored 16 points, hitting 4 three pointers.
Simmons said it came down to free throws, but kind of cringed when asked who made the free throws.
“I did,” he said softly while sitting in a Tipton crowd at the W-K Shootout Thursday afternoon. “I made two with 29 seconds left to win it.”
When not playing basketball, Simmons enjoys playing video games, wake boarding, water sports and going to the lake.
Simmons is the youngest of six children in his family. His other siblings are: Alexis Simmons, 17; Taylor Simmons, 21; Courtney Simmons, 23; Tyler Simmons, 25; and Christopher Simmons, 26.
He is the son of Julie and Rodger Simmons, Sedalia.