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Simmons Makes Most of His Second Chance to Star

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The faces were all familiar, guys he had played with and against growing up on the playgrounds of Brooklyn, in nearby high schools and with the Riverside Church AAU team.

The crowd was filled with his “boys from the block,” relatives and others who had watched him play at Brooklyn’s Tilden High and Redemption Christian Academy in Troy, N.Y.

And Kevin Simmons was determined to block out the distractions this time and perform up to his capabilities as Irvine battled St. John’s in the final of the Joe Lapchick Memorial Tournament on Saturday. Friday against Siena, Simmons ended up with 14 points and six rebounds--most during “garbage time” when the game was already decided--but he was not happy with his play.

“I sat alone in my room [Saturday] and thought a lot about it, about how to come back from [Friday’s] game,” said Simmons, who had only two points and one rebound in the first half against Siena.

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After Saturday’s 83-77 victory over St. John’s however, he was beaming and strutting and pointing up to his personal rooting section in the Alumni Hall bleachers. Simmons made eight of 19 shots from the floor, had a team-high 24 points and nine rebounds to lead Irvine to one of its biggest victories ever, prompting St. John’s Coach Brian Mahoney to state the obvious: “I guess the kid likes to come home to play.”

“No matter what happens the rest of this season, when I come home this summer, I got bragging rights, man,” Simmons said, a wide smile splitting his face. “When people see me walking around, they’ll say that’s the kid that goes to that California school that beat St. John’s.”

“It’s hard to imagine how Kevin feels right now,” point guard Raimonds Miglinieks said. “I told him he’s the biggest man in New York today.

“He’s the man that beat St. John’s.”

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