In the midst of a stellar sophomore season with averages of 16.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists & 1.4 steals per game, Colorado guard KJ Simpson has quickly established himself as one of the more intriguing draft prospects in the PAC 12. After losing key players such as Jabari Walker [Portland Trail Blazers] & Evan Battey [BC Rilski Sportist], Simpson has done an exceptional job stepping up as a leader and replacing some of their previous production.
As part of the Pro Insight Q&A series, Simpson discusses his all-around game, how he’s developed within the program, his relentless mindset, what he’s shown NBA scouts this season, and more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present Colorado guard, KJ Simpson from West Hills, California:
Pro Insight: You’re up in every major statistical category this season — talk about your development since first arriving on campus.
KJ Simpson: I think it was really just the offseason, I was working with my trainer every single day, no days off. I didn’t just focus on one thing, [I worked] on every aspect of my game. I like to be all-around, so that’s why I’ve seen a bigger jump in all of my categories. It’s just the work I’ve put in.
PI: Did anything click for you mentally during the offseason?
KS: I think it was mainly my mentality, with guys like Jabari [Walker], Keeshawn [Barthelemy], Elijah [Parquet] and Evan [Battey] leaving. That was three of our top scorers leaving, so I knew I had to step up and do more than just score. I had to be a better leader, rebounder, get more guys involved with assists, defend better and score as well. Just my mentality, I realized what we lost, so I had to step up.
PI: Where do you feel you’ve improved the most so far this season?
KS: I would say my rebounding and turnovers. I’ve had a few poor games and a lot of them can be self-inflicted, but I’m doing a better job of being more patient. Freshman year I would get turnovers on back-to-back possessions in a couple games and wasn’t learning from my mistakes and now I’m learning from my mistakes. So being more patient and rebounding. With one of our best guys in J’Vonne Hadley being out, I had to rebound. Rebounding, scoring, defending…I’m always trying to get better at that. I feel like I can get better at everything, still.
PI: You showed your defensive aggressiveness in your recent game against Utah — where does that mindset come from?
KS: I’ve always been kind of defense-first since I was young. Trying to fill up the stat sheet has always been my mentality because if I set the example and people see me being all-around then that gets more guys involved and wanting to do more things other than what they’re used to.
PI: Any players you like to study?
KS: I definitely like watching Ja Morant and Chris Paul, especially their pick-and-roll stuff. How they read the floor. But Ja for sure, his athleticism, speed, how he runs in transition, how he uses ball screens to get to his floater, etc.
PI: What do you feel that you have shown NBA scouts this season?
KS: That I’m able to step up and live up to the expectations. There was always that “what-if” or “we see the potential, but we need to see it on a consistent basis.” I feel like I’ve been pretty consistent, but when I hurt my ankle and tried to come back I had a little bit of a slump, but now it’s fully healed and I’m good. But I think just trying to be more consistent and be an every day guy is something I’ve proven.
PI: What’s one hashtag you’d use to describe yourself, and why?
KS: Probably #relentless because no matter the score or situation, I’m always going to be in attack mode. I’m always going to believe we can win. If I look up and there’s five seconds left and we’re down 10 points, I don’t care I’m still going to the basket. That’s just my mentality, I’m relentless and I’m not going to give up.
PI: Where do you see yourself five years from now?
KS: Man, who knows, the future is definitely bright. I’ll be done with college, so hopefully the league. That’s the goal. The NBA is the primary goal, but right now I’m just focused on trying to get better every single day…be a better teammate, leader for my guys and finish the season strong.