By: Jarvis Dillard
For athletes, an injury can be a stumbling block for their career and can possibly end that career. To Simmons, it was an eye opener. As a young girl, Simmons grew up loving basketball.
“I’ve been in love with basketball since I was able to pick up a ball and drop it down,” Simmons said. “I use to shoot around with my two older brothers and sister. We could never play a real game though because I was too young.”
Although she was born with natural abilities, her siblings sharpened her skills which lead her to being a starter on her middle school team both seventh and eighth grade.
She was approached by an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) coach in the eighth grade and eventually was put on the team and started for the Houston Elite.
As a freshman in high school, some would find it difficult to be a part of a varsity athletic team, but not Simmons. She came in dominating the court and wasn’t afraid to let the older girls have it.
“Coming into high school as a freshman, I was not scared of going against the bigger and taller girls there,” Simmons said. “I just seen them as harder competition which pushed me even harder resulting in me getting a position on the Varsity team as a freshmen and I never looked back.”
From her freshman to junior year, Simmons started on the Varsity team. She went from playing one position to being a player who could play any position needed on the court.
“I played power forward as freshmen and then was moved to shooting guard and eventually ended up being that player who could play any position at any time,” she said.
The summer leading up to her senior year, she was playing for the Houston Elite in a tournament when she received the ball and proceeded to make a lay-up from a fast break when she felt pain.
“I had just received the ball and was headed to make a lay-up when I felt and unusual pain and fell to the ground,” she said. “And I actually almost made the shot.”
She sat out the next quarter and stretched on the sideline. She was put back in the game and the pain happened again.
“When I was put back in the game, and the pain came again, then I knew that something was really wrong,” Simmons said.
Simmons had torn her anterior cruciate ligament or acl and wasn’t able to play basketball for the rest of her AAU summer season and the beginning of her high school’s basketball season.
Her high school teammates, like Kionana Blackmon, was not aware of the injury. When they found out, they did not let that stop them from playing their hardest.
“It was a shock at first,” Blackmon said. “Things were a bit different, but the team learned how to lean on each other for support and step up when a leader was needed.”
Blackmon’s position was also altered because of the injury.
“If she would have started, I would have been playing shooting guard, but because of the injury, I was moved to point guard which would have been her position.”
Sophomore Deonna London had only played on the team with Simmons for the year and seen her as a good player and leader.
“When I first came to the school, Joi was very helpful in developing my skills and putting me on the high school girls basketball level,” London said.
London recalled many times where Simmons stayed after practice to help her out. When she heard about the injury, she knew she couldn’t let this set back stop the team from being victorious.
“Since she was the star player, many people probably thought that the team would go down,” London said. “But knowing her, she wouldn’t want none of the team to let that happen.”
After three missed high school games, Simmons was finally cleared and was able to hit the court again scoring 26 points.