Standing at center court before the home crowd for the last time of his career, he soaked it all in. Two years earlier, he primarily sat on the bench in Friel Court at the Pullman campus of NCAA Division-I program Washington State. Now the court was his mainstay at Division II Seattle Pacific.
Senior forward Patrick Simon regained his passion for the sport of basketball at Royal Brougham Pavilion. After a frustrating two years with limited playing time as a Cougar, he sought a fresh start, and SPU proved to be a very fruitful new environment.
“I remembered how much I love the game playing here,” Simon said. “I kind of lost sight of that at WSU, and in the last two years I’ve realized how much basketball means to me. My teammates have become my brothers and the whole program my family.”
Simon’s revitalized interest has sparked incredible success as a Falcon. After averaging 13.4 points a game and shooting a lights-out 45.5 percent from behind the three-point line in his first season in the new uniform last year, he has increased his productivity even more this season, boosting his scoring to 16.5 points per game and converting on a nation-leading 52 percent of shots from behind the arc.
Simon and his fellow senior star, point guard David Downs, were honored before Saturday’s Senior Night game against Montana State Billings. The game proved to not be quite representative of the legacy Simon has created in his time at SPU, as the Falcons fell 72-70 on a buzzer beater in overtime. Simon only registered four points. Regardless, it was a meaningful night for the 6’8’’ Ephrata, Wash., native.
“The game didn’t turn out the way any of us wanted it to, but the past two years have definitely been special,” Simon said. “I’ve really enjoyed my time here at SPU, and I’ve had a great support system.”
Part of that support system has been his counterpart, Downs, who was a major factor in his transfer decision.
“David was one of the bigger reasons I came to SPU in all honesty,” Simon said. “He really sold me on the idea of the experience here being worth it, even though most of us could play at bigger schools.”
Downs sits directly behind Simon in three-point percentage, owning the nation’s second-highest clip this season at 49 percent. He also leads the team in both points and assists, averaging 20.4 and 4.8 per game, respectively. On top of that, he sits at No. 3 all-time in both categories in the SPU record book.
“He’s been the biggest leader on our team this year, and I really can’t even put into words how valuable he’s been,” Simon said.
Downs was especially valuable despite the loss Saturday, scoring almost half of the team’s points with 33. Even more noteworthy was the fact that all those points came in the last 17 minutes of the contest.
No other Falcon scored in double digits in the game, and the team was never able to get an edge. They played catch-up from the start, and weren’t able to pull all the pieces together as usual. The result snapped the team’s 11-game win streak.
“We didn’t play very good defense,” Simon said. “We gave up a lot of threes early on and missed boxouts. Every game comes down to a few plays at the end, but we really put ourselves in a poor position from the start.”
The game was a small blemish in Simon’s stretch in maroon and white, as the team has compiled a 49-9 record in the last two years. On top of the success has been a unique culture of camaraderie and support.
“It starts with the coaches bringing in high-character guys, and the fact that we get along so well,” Simon said. “It’s easily the closest team I’ve ever been on. There’s no cliques whatsoever. Everyone has the same common goal in mind, and we’ve all come together to fight for that.”
The squad now sits at 22-5 and 13-3 in Great Northwest Athletic Conference play. They maintain a one-game lead over rival Western Washington and will clinch sole share of the regular season conference title and the No. 1 seed in the GNAC tournament with a combination of two wins or WWU losses this week.
The last two games on the regular season schedule occur this week — on the road against Central Washington and Northwest Nazarene on Thursday and Saturday nights, respectively. From there, they’ll head to Lacey for the conference tourney.
As the postseason approaches, Simon and his teammates are excited for the journey. However, he will always cherish his memories at 3414 Third Ave. W.
“The team and I have had great success at Brougham,” Simon said. “It’s a really nice court, and I loved playing at home there. I’ll miss it for sure.”