Men’s basketball head coach Randy Bennett, now in his eighth season at the helm, has his sights set on the continued transformation of the Gaels into one of the nation’s elite programs. This passage to excellence has hinged largely on Diamon Simpson, a 6-foot-7 senior forward from Hayward High School.
As a three-time All-West Coast Conference selection, Simpson has started every game in each of the last two seasons, pacing the squad in scoring (13.8) and rebounding (8.6) per-game averages. In 2008, he joined the Gaels’ exclusive 1,000 Point Club as its 25th member.
In his first three years, Simpson swatted 182 shots — a Saint Mary’s record. A dynamic and rangy athlete, Simpson harasses ballhandlers in the open court and clogs opposing passing lanes for the Gaels (his 82 steals from 2006–08 also tops the team). Simpson’s development into a force protecting the basket has allowed Bennett’s team to assume a hard-nosed defensive identity, especially at McKeon Pavilion. The stingy defense helped the Gaels finish 15–1 at home last season while holding opponents to a meager 62.1 points per game.
Recruited primarily as a rebounder and defensive stopper, Simpson has broadened his game offensively in preparation for what he hopes will be a career in professional basketball.
“At Saint Mary’s, coach Bennett and his staff have shown me how to really work, Simpson says. “They taught me that no matter how much potential you have, you’ve got keep pushing yourself, no matter what.”
Gaels’ fans have more than Simpson to look forward to this season. Headlining the Gaels’ Australian contingent is Olympian Patrick Mills, who returns as a sophomore bolstered with confidence from competing — and succeeding — against the world’s best players. Junior center Omar Samhan also returns to the starting lineup, as do senior forward Ian O’Leary and guard Carlin Hughes.
With an energized fan base, a balanced scoring attack and Simpson’s stabilizing presence, the Gaels possess the pieces for a run deep into March Madness. Simpson plans to make the most of this season.
“You’ve only got four years here,” he says. “They go by fast, and I know I’ve got to make the most I can out of them.”