Jachai Simmons likes what he sees in Paul Weir.
So much so, in fact, he’s now committed to play for him twice.
The 6-foot-8 junior college forward from Plainfield, N.J., who played the past two seasons at Midland (Texas) College, has decided to play for the University of New Mexico, confirming Saturday to the Journal he has signed to play for the Lobos.
The decision comes less than six months after he initially signed to play for Weir and new Lobos assistant Marc Hsu, when the two were coaching at New Mexico State University.
“Coach Hsu was very determined during my recruitment to New Mexico State,” Simmons wrote in a text message to the Journal about his decision. “I started to trust him. After I met coach Weir, I just knew these were the type of coaches I wanted to play for.”
Simmons is one of two NMSU signees who asked for and were granted a release from their National Letter of Intent to play for the Aggies after Weir left last month to coach at UNM. Newly hired head coach Chris Jans, who replaced Weir in Las Cruces, granted a release to both players, making them immediately eligible.
“Whenever there is a coaching change, there seems to be a chance for signed kids to maybe be re-recruited or an opportunity for kids in the program that didn’t sign up to play for that particular coach to look around,” Jans told the Las Cruces Sun-News. “Unfortunately, it’s commonplace. My attitude towards it is I understand. It’s not ideal for the student-athletes and we’re not trying to hold anyone’s feet to the fire. In the end, we want kids who want to play for New Mexico State and want to play for me.”
Jans also released Tyree Robinson of Odessa (Texas) College from his letter of intent to NMSU.
Simmons has two years of eligibility remaining. He averaged 11.7 points and 3.5 rebounds per games this past season for the Chaparrals and shot 38.5 percent from 3-point range. He twice hit seven 3-pointers in a game — once in a Jan. 8 win over Aspire Academy Prep from Arizona in which he scored a season-high 31 points, and again in a Feb. 2 loss at South Plains College in which he scored 25 points.
The Lobos last season ranked No. 274 out of 351 Division I teams in 3-point shooting (32.7 percent). The 145 3-pointers were last in the Mountain West by a significant margin (the next lowest was 200 by San Jose State), and the team’s 4.7 3-pointers per game ranked 342nd nationally.
Simmons is the fourth player to sign with the Lobos since Weir was named head coach, leaving one open scholarship for the program for the 2017-18 season, assuming no other players decide to transfer.
UNM has also signed Chris McNeal, a 6-1 point guard from Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa; Troy Simons, a 6-1 combo guard from Polk State College in Lakeland, Fla.; and Antino Jackson, a 5-11 point and graduate transfer from Akron.
Simmons adds some needed height to the Lobos roster. He is now one of three players taller than 6-7, joining returning forwards Joe Furstinger and Connor MacDougall, who are each 6-9.