UA commits Ray Smith, left, and Justin Simon flashed the "WC" Wildcat sign after a Dream Vision game at Las Vegas in July 2014, shortly after Smith hurt his left ACL.

Bruce Pascoe / Arizona Daily Star

When UA commit Justin Simon played in the Mary Kline Classic game last May, he struck up a friendship with Donovan Mitchell of Brewster Academy.

Before long, that led to a sales pitch.

“Donovan said, `We need a point guard. If you ever think about going to a prep school, let us know,’ “ said Simon’s father, Ken. “As Justin became one of the hottest players on the West Coast, a lot of schools were reaching out and saying `We could use a player like you.’ “

The two stayed in touch, and played together again during a Reebok event in Philadelphia. By the end of the summer, the Simons were listening and thinking about a number of prep schools. Then Justin opted to leave Temecula Valley High School last week and made plans to head to Brewster early next month instead.

There, he will join Mitchell, who recently committed to Louisville.

“We wanted him to be more ready and focused for U of A,” Ken Simon said. “He’ll be pushed every day in practice and in their league. Their roster is a Division I (college) roster and if you go against those guys in practice every day is going to get you better.”

Ken said the Simons also liked the academic emphasis of Brewster and low student-teacher ratios (for which normal students pay dearly). He said UA coaches told them they would support whatever decision Justin made.

There’s only one problem: Simon will have to leave a lifetime in Southern California behind to spend next winter in New Hampshire.

“We’re trying to get him mentally prepared for that,” Ken Simon said. “I talked to somebody who went to Syracuse for basketball and he said `You have to realize I just had to walk from the dorm to the gym. I limited my time in the elements.’

"So it’s `Hey, Justin you don’t have to be outside.' And the whole thing is get him in mindset for independence so he’ll be ready.”

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Sportswriter for the Arizona Daily Star covering Arizona Wildcats basketball