MEDFORD – Derek Simpson, a class of 2022 guard from Lenape High School (NJ), has solidified himself as one of the best combo guards in the region. The South Jersey Sports Zone Preseason All-South Jersey Second Team selection holds offers from Rider and Saint Joseph’s.
“Rider and St. Joe’s offered me the summer going into my sophomore year,” Simpson said. “Rider offered first.”
Following the Indians’ 50-25 win over district rival Cherokee on February 16, Simpson gave an update on his recruitment.
The junior notched a game-high 16 points in the win over the previously-unbeaten Chiefs.
HALFTIME: No. 7 @LenapeAthletics 30, No. 5 @ChiefsAthletics 10 @SJSportsZone— Kevin Emmons (@OfficialKEmmons) February 16, 2021
Watch: Lenape’s Derek Simpson knocks down the shot off the dribble to extend the Indians lead to 20. Simpson has a game-high 13 points. @LenapeHoops 🏀 pic.twitter.com/5skn3OrFGA
Lenape’s Derek Simpson notched a game-high 16 points in the Indians’ 50-25 win over Cherokee on Tuesday night. The @SJSportsZone Preseason All-South Jersey Second Team selection also gave me an update on his recruitment. I’ll have that interview available soon. @LenapeAthletics pic.twitter.com/DZnfF9Jf0E— Kevin Emmons (@OfficialKEmmons) February 17, 2021
“It’s been very interesting,” Simpson said. “I’ve been getting a lot of calls, especially from the East Coast schools. It’s been fun.”
Simpson has recently garnered attention from East Carolina in the American Athletic Conference and Providence in the Big East.
“I heard from East Carolina,” Simpson said. I have a connection through there with their assistant coach — we’ve been talking a lot. I’ve been talking with the Providence assistant coach a lot, too. It’s very interesting to hear from different schools and how they live on their campus.”
The junior has impressed onlookers on the AAU circuit competing with the South Jersey Titans. The program was founded by Simpson’s father, Ron, who happens to be one of the most accomplished basketball players in Rider school history.
Ron Simpson was inducted into the Rider Athletics Hall of Fame in 2010. His 1,735 career points ranks seventh in school history. He accomplished this feat in only three seasons. Ron also ranks first in school history in career scoring average (20.0 points per game).
“My father played at Rider (and) has been a big help throughout the (recruitment) process,” Derek said. “He has been through the process, so I always listen. I was once told, ‘if you can’t take criticism from your dad, then you can’t take criticism from a college coach.’ He has been a big role model when it comes to attitude and effort.”
For Derek, the AAU experience has been enjoyable. It has also provided him with the exposure needed to compete at the next level.
“The SJ Titans were created by my father when I was in fifth grade,” Derek said. “Ever since then, we have played in a lot of great tournaments. My freshman year we played on the Silver Adidas Gauntlet and we traveled to a couple different states to play. We came across some really good teams. My AAU coach, Dave Distel, was a very big help with my recruiting because of how much he put my name out to so many college coaches.”
“The best tournament we went to was in Massachusetts,” Derek said. “We played two teams with three-plus Division 1 athletes and we battled with them and competed.”
For right now, the junior continues to shine on the floor at Lenape. Simpson is averaging 18 points per game this season. He notched a game-high 23 points in a 65-60 win over Woodrow Wilson on January 26 and added a 16-point performance in a 60-50 setback to Trenton Catholic on February 12.
Simpson continues to exhibit his ability to create separation off the dribble and has a knack for knocking down mid-range jump shots off the dribble. He is capable of playing on and off the ball and is efficient in both roles. The junior is making his case for a South Jersey Sports Zone All-South Jersey First Team selection.
Personal accolades aren’t his focus, though.
Simpson is thankful for the recognition, but he’s more concerned with the team’s goals moving forward.
“It’s great to be noticed,” Simpson said. “My name gets put out there with all the greats in South Jersey. It’s great to compete against them, too. (In terms of our) team’s goals, (we want to) win all our division games. I think those are the most important games. I think going forward, it’s going to be super important to stay focused in practice. We only have one practice, two practices a week. It’s important to stay conditioned and stay healthy. ”
The junior also takes a lot of pride in carrying on the family tradition. Simpson is looking forward to the opportunity to eventually pursue his athletic and academic career on the collegiate level.
“My family is big on sports,” Derek said. “So for me to hopefully go to college for free is an even bigger accomplishment. It’s really special to have it happen and I know my father is happy to see it.”
South Jersey Sports Zone (SJSZ) was co-founded by Kevin Emmons in 2017. The brand covers high school sports and promotes South Jersey pride. If you’d like to keep up with SJSZ, find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
(Photo Credit: Kevin Emmons)