Montana State University-Northern senior Joe Simpson has electrified Northern fans with his gutty play, his tenacious defense and rebounding and his high-flying dunks for better than two years now.
And he’s not done yet.
Simpson is in his final postseason run with the Lights, a time when he takes an already superb game to seemingly another level. During last year’s journey to the Frontier Conference championship and a berth in the NAIA national tournament, Simpson averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds in the Lights’ last 10 games. This season, he’s back at it again, as he scored a team-high 16 in MSU-N’s quarterfinal win over Montana Tech on Tuesday night.
But when the 6-4 Pittsburg, Calif., native talks about basketball, about his team and even about himself, you understand how unselfish he is, how much of a leader he is, and just how important the word family is to him. And winning as a family is important too.
Here’s five questions with one of the backbone players on the Lights’ team as they stay in the hunt for even more postseason glory.
HDN: How has this season been different for you and for the Lights, compared to last year?
Simpson: “We kind of started this year on top, more so than last year when people didn’t really know what we were capable of because we were such a new team. This year, we started off with a lot more experience, leadership and even more chemistry. And I think we all knew what to expect, as opposed to last year when everything was really, really new to all of us. This year, we have a lot higher expectations for ourselves because we knew exactly what we were capable of.”
HDN: You seem to really go into another gear in the postseason. Is that something you think about or it just happens that way?
Simpson: “You have to look at the postseason different. It’s more like you’re playing for survival. You lose and you’re done. No one on this team wants to be done unless our last game is a win. So I just try to stay consistent to what I’ve been doing all year, but it seems like in the postseason more opportunities come my way and I try to take advantage of them.”
HDN: Your team really is close. You guys are very much a family on and off the court?
Simpson: “We are very tight, on and off the court. Coming from all the different places we came from, that has really bonded us as a team. Every guy on this team sacrifices for each other, and they know the next guy in a Lights’ uniform will do the same for them. We have each other’s backs in all situations. We all love play basketball and we’ve done it as a family.”
HDN: Do you have a favorite Division I team you cheer for?
Simpson: “I don’t really have a favorite. I love to watch college basketball and every year it kind of switches for me. Right now, I really like watching Ohio State. I really like watching them. I like their game.”
HDN: Who did you look up to in basketball, in life? Who did you patter your game after?
Simpson: “Growing up, I heard a lot about my uncle, Nate Williams. He went to Utah State and made it to the NBA. So he’s got a lot of knowledge. My step dad really helped me a lot when I was younger. He really coached me up. And I have an older brother and sister who were both big into sports. My sister played basketball in high school, then went to Grambling State to play softball. She was a team MVP twice and she got her degree in three years. She really motivates me because I want to go down the same path she did. Get my degree and be as successful as I can be in life.”