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Who is Anfernee Simons, the top-10 recruit who will enter the 2018 NBA Draft through a loophole?

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Simons is ranked as the No. 8 player in his class by ESPN.

Anfernee Simons (IMG Academy/Altamonte Springs, FL)
USA Basketball

A high school basketball player ranked in the top 10 of his national recruiting class will reportedly be in the 2018 NBA Draft. Anfernee Simons, a 6’4 guard out of Orlando, is reportedly eligible for June’s draft and has decided to enter, he told ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.

“After discussing the matter with my parents, I have decided to forego the opportunity to play in the NCAA and to instead enter the NBA Draft,” Simons told Givony. “I am very thankful for the support I received at IMG Academy and from the NCAA coaches who recruited me. I am ready and excited to pursue my dream of playing in the NBA.”

Simons is signing with an agency fronted by NFL superagent Drew Rosenhaus.

This is a shift from his position earlier in the basketball season. In November, Simons told Scout that he was leaning toward attending college right now. Givony reports that Simons was planning to test the waters until he received positive feedback, causing him to change his decision.

Simons is ranked as the No. 7 player in the class of 2018 by ESPN. ESPN also had him as the No. 5 overall pick in an early projection of the 2019 draft last month.

So: who is Anfernee Simons and why is he eligible for the for the 2018 draft? Here’s an introduction to one of the best young guards in high school basketball.

How is he eligible for the 2018 NBA Draft?

Simons has technically already graduated from Edgewater High School in Orlando. He’s currently spending a post-grad year at IMG Academy, a basketball factory in Manatee County, Florida that plays a national schedule and recently produced Duke point guard Trevon Duval.

Seeing that he’ll be 19 years old and one year removed from high school graduation in time for June’s draft, he’s eligible to enter if he wants to.

Is there precedent for this?

It’s essentially the same way Thon Maker entered the 2016 NBA Draft. Jonathan Isaac thought about doing it too, but eventually went to Florida State and became the No. 6 pick in the 2017 draft.

Can I see some tape?

Mike Schmitz of ESPN put together a nice little scouting video on Simons:

Alright, but can I just watch a mixtape?

Absolutely.

Is the NBA actually interested in him?

Yes. Six teams sent scouts or executives to watch him last November, per ESPN. Though he is raw, he has the physical tools to succeed in the modern NBA.

What’s going on with his college recruitment?

Simons was committed to Louisville before the Cards found themselves at the center of the FBI corruption scandal. He quickly decommitted and reopened his recruitment. Florida, NC State, South Carolina, and Tennessee were after him the hardest, per Scout, but he said no to all of them..

Was he always a stud?

Nope. Simons is a major late bloomer. He transferred to Montverde Academy for the 2015-16 season and barely got off the bench. (Montverde, of course is another powerhouse Florida prep school that has produced Ben Simmons, D’Angelo Russell and now No. 1 overall recruit R.J. Barrett.)

Simons made the decision to reclassify backwards, hence the fifth year of high school. Usually when we hear about high school players reclassifying, it’s to move up a grade and get to college/the NBA sooner. That’s what Marvin Bagley III and Barrett have done this year. Simons was young for his grade originally and knew he needed more time to develop.

When Simons got back to Edgewater, he started to blossom. Last season he was the Class 7A player of the year in Florida, averaging 23.8 points per game. He also solidified his rapid rise with a breakout year on the Under Armour Association for Team Breakdown.

What are his strengths and weaknesses?

Simons is a 6’4 combo guard whose strengths are shooting and creating offense off the dribble.

His biggest weakness is his weakness. He’s going to need to get a lot stronger physically.

He already has an endorsement from an NBA player

From Schmitz:

Anfernee Simons and Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell are very close. I asked Mitchell about Simons after a Lakers preseason game in October: "He's talented. He can score at all 3 levels. The main thing I talk to him about is just defense because scorers are easy to come by, scorers who play defense aren't. I've been talking to him a bunch. I wish him the best of luck. He's just a talented kid. Athletic. Knows where to be, knows the game, and I think that's rare to find in a kid that age. He has a bright future."

Is Simons the next Markelle Fultz?

That’s what one mixtape promises in the title. There are some similarities between the two in terms of skill set. Fultz was a late bloomer, too.

That’s just a lot to put on any kid. Fultz was the NCAA’s No. 6 leading scorer at 23.2 points per game before being chosen with the first pick in the 2017 draft. Not every late blooming combo guard is going to reach the draft heighs of Markelle Fultz. That is a ridiculously high standard to meet. (Of course, Fultz’s mystifying struggle with his jumper means that even Fultz might not meet those standards)

Right now, Simons looks like one of the best long-term backcourt prospects in high school basketball. Many scouts will still view him as a developmental prospect who would likely need multiple years in the G-League to add strength and turn into a consistent scorer.

But clearly, his stock was on the rise, so he’s decided to capitalize on it.