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Simmons signs with D2 Purdue Northwest

Forest Park’s Mercedes Simmons recently signed a NCAA Division 2 national letter of intent to play basketball at Purdue Northwest in H. Also pictured, from left, are FP coach Kim Bjork, Simmons’ brother Avery, her mother Pam Waldo and former coach and current principal Jackie Giuliani.

CRYSTAL FALLS — At 6-foot, 1-inch with long arms, a lanky build, an excellent ability to move laterally and an improving offensive game, Forest Park’s Mercedes Simmons has the physical gifts needed to play college basketball.
    Interestingly enough, however, Simmons didn’t really hone in on the idea until later in her development, an unusual happenstance for an athlete with those components. Turns out, there is a very good reason for that.
    “I didn’t even start playing basketball until I moved here, said Simmons, who moved to Crystal Falls from Anchorage, Alaska. “I started in seventh grade and I started (playing) as a hobby. And then once I started liking the game, I was like, ‘I want to take this further.’”
    Notwithstanding her late start in the game, Simmons quickly blossomed to the point where college coaches began to take notice of her this summer when she began to play AAU basketball with Level UP Express out of Marquette. And that all led to her signing a NCAA Division 2 national letter of intent to play for Purdue University Northwest in Hammond, Ind., a city about 25 miles southeast of Chicago.
    “It’s super exciting,” Simmons said at her signing event at Forest Park on Nov. 20. “Now it’s for sure I’m going to play college basketball and it’s real exciting.”
    Her future college coach feels similarly.
    “I am thrilled to have Mercedes join our family,” PNW head coach Courtney Locke said in a press release. “From the moment I saw her, I couldn’t wait to get her on the phone. It was a perfect fit and I can’t wait to see Mercedes blossom at PNW. She brings athleticism and length that will make an immediate impact. Her work ethic and defensive presence is exciting to watch.”

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