Cetera DeGraffenreid's experience as a women's basketball player at North Carolina helped the Tar Heels's men's team land Smoky Mountain High Class of 2011 power forward Jackson Simmons as a preferred walk-on.
Cindi Simmons, Jackson's mother, coached DeGraffenreid at Smoky Mountain.
"We know what Carolina has meant to the DeGraffenreids, and we followed that very closely," said Si Simmons, Jackson's father. "Cetera allowed us to be a part of her recruiting at Carolina and Jackson has grown up seeing that and being a part of that, and choosing Carolina has been sort of a natural choice."
Simmons is 6-foot-8 and 205 pounds and averaged 19.9 points and 12.5 rebounds per game as a junior on a team that went 24-5 and reached the state semifinals. His father and his high school coach, Jimmy Cleaveland, said Simmons committed as a walk-on with the understanding that he could earn scholarship help eventually with time, effort and performance.
"He's a post player for us, but he has worked very hard on his perimeter game," Cleaveland said. "He has a nice shot and he is getting a whole lot better. He has always been a very solid player and his work ethic is tremendous."
Si Simmons said Charlotte, Davidson, Old Dominon, Western Carolina, Appalachian State and Southern Illinois were among the many schools that offered scholarships to Jackson.
"We're so excited about Carolina and appreciate the other opportunities," Simmons said. "I don't want to slight that at all. But when Carolina became a reality, that became a pretty clear choice for him."
Ken Tysiac and Tim Stevens