University City v Webster Groves boys basketball

Webster Groves guard Rayshawn Simmons (center) passes the ball over University City center Avion Ahsford in first-half action during a game between University City and Webster Groves on Friday, Jan. 20, 2012, at University City High School in University City. At right is University City guard Travon Williams. Photo by Chris Lee,

Chris Lee

Rayshawn Simmons’ eyes set him apart. He doesn’t know what color to call them. Some days they appear green. Other days they look hazel. He’s not even sure why they change. He thinks they might shift with the colors of his clothes or perhaps they shift depending on the day. “I think it’s seasonal,” the 6-foot-4, 178-pound Simmons says.

Whatever color they are, they shine against his light brown complexion. They also are what make him a dangerous athlete.

In the fall, Simmons used those peepers to find open wide receivers as the quarterback in Webster Groves’ mighty offensive attack. He threw for 2,797 yards and 30 touchdowns and was named to the Class 5 All-State team.

This winter, he traded in his helmet for a tank top, but he’s still using those eyes (and that cannon of an arm) to find open teammates. Simmons, 18, is averaging almost eight assists per game, which is second in the region to only De Smet’s super standout Jimmy Barton.

Coming into the season, the plan wasn’t for Simmons to be sharing the ball so much. With only fellow seniors Peter Fairbanks and Demetrius Robinson having any significant varsity experience, there were going to be a lot of fresh faces. Webster coach Jay Blossom made no bones about it during the preseason. He said then the Statesmen would be relying on players who hadn’t even dressed for varsity action before. “At the beginning of the season, I thought I was going to have to do a lot of scoring,” Simmons says.

And it’s not that he hasn’t done his share of putting the ball in the basket. He’s still averaging a team-high 16 points per game, but he’s got Robinson right behind at 15 points per game and Fairbanks adding another 14. Simmons says the evolution from being the primary scorer to facilitator just happened naturally. “I kept passing them (my teammates) the ball and told them to keep shooting,” Simmons says.

The results have been striking. The Statesmen are an impressive 20-4 overall and 6-0 in Suburban South Conference play with one game remaining at home against Parkway Central. Heading into that matchup Webster was riding a 79-game unbeaten streak in Suburban South play. The Statesmen have won the league 10 consecutive years without a loss and, barring anything unforeseen, should wrap up an 11th straight unbeaten season.

The Statesmen have won their league games by nearly 17 points per contest. Once they wrap up their regular season, the Statesmen are slated to take part in the Class 5 District 2 tournament at St. Louis University High. Webster was tabbed as the top seed in a district that includes CBC, Ladue, Chaminade, SLUH and Roosevelt.

Simmons wants to take home that district championship and see how far the Statesmen can go in the postseason. The winner of the district tournament would play its sectional in Farmington, and the winner of that would play at the University of Missouri-St. Louis in the quarterfinals for a berth in the final four.

Webster hasn’t been to the final four since it won the state championship in 2008, the year before Simmons arrived as a freshman. “I want to see how far we can go this year,” Simmons says. “Hopefully we can ride it all the way to state.”

That’s a far cry from where the Statesmen began the season. For the first time in a long time Webster wasn’t ranked in the top 10. “We’ve been ranked every other year I’ve been here and before. We just took it as motivation,” Simmons says. “I posted (the preseason rankings) in the locker room. We look at it every day.”

He sees it clearly with his bright eyes, no matter what color they are.