Simmons goes pro

North Texas forward Zachary Simmons leaves the court following an 84-61 loss to Villanova in the second round of the NCAA tournament on March 21 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The game was Simmons’ final appearance with the Mean Green.

North Texas forward Zachary Simmons has signed with Tropical Sports Agency and will not return for an additional season with the Mean Green.

Simmons was a senior this season. The NCAA’s decision to grant winter sports athletes an additional year of eligibility opened up the possibility of the Abilene native returning for another year.

Simmons has passed on that chance. The agency announced Simmons has signed a contract on Saturday night.

The 6-foot-10 forward was a key member of UNT’s team that won the Conference USA tournament and went on to post the first NCAA tournament win in program history this season.

Simmons averaged 10.0 points and 6.0 rebounds per game for UNT, which knocked off Purdue in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. The Mean Green were the No. 13 seed in the South Region and pulled off one of the bigger first-round upsets in this season’s tournament when they upended the Boilermakers, the No. 4 seed in the region, 78-69 in overtime.

UNT lost to Villanova in the second round.

Simmons will go down as a significant player in program history. He ranks 16th in program history with 1,129 points and is also ninth on UNT’s all-time rebounding list with 753.

Simmons started 101 straight games for the Mean Green beginning in his freshman season. He had been leaning toward turning pro for several weeks.

“After this year, I’ll probably sign with an agent and look for a professional opportunity,” Simmons said late in the season. “I love the game. I have a passion for it. I want to explore the world and build a future for a family.”

Simmons is the third key player to elect to leave UNT’s program since the end of the season. Point guard Javion Hamlet, the MVP of the C-USA tournament, declared for the NBA draft. Shooting guard James Reese entered the NCAA transfer portal.

Hamlet led UNT with an average of 15.7 points per game, while Reese added 10.9. Senior forward Thomas Bell announced earlier this week that he will return for an additional season and will be UNT’s leading returning scorer next season at 10.4 points per game unless Reese reverses course and elects to return.

No matter who elects to return, Simmons’ departure will leave a significant void in UN’s program.

“What he’s done for our program, who he is and how he’s improved is really what this is all about,” UNT coach Grant McCasland said late in the season. “We would not be where we are today without him.”

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.

Recommended for you

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!