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Simmons, Jordan excel in transition from hoops to nets

Throughout their respective careers in high school athletics, more people have known the names Moneshia Simmons and Briana Jordan for their abilities on the basketball court, rather than the volleyball court.

Simmons - a two-time Daily Post all-county selection at Mill Creek - and Jordan - a second-team all-county guard at GAC in 2007 and a key contributor after transferring to Norcross last season - are both among Gwinnett's highest-profile hoops prospects in the Class of 2010.

That said however, both Simmons and Jordan have made a major impact for their respective teams on the volleyball court throughout their careers.

And they're both determined to save their best for last as both open up play in the Class AAAAA state sectional playoffs Thursday.

Simmons and the No. 3 state-ranked Hawks (33-1) play host to Jenkins, while Jordan and the Blue Devils (21-16) welcome Savannah Arts Academy.

"An athlete like Mo doesn't come through a program all that often," Mill Creek coach Analisa Wendt said of Simmons. "I truly believe any sport she plays, she'll be successful at. Her determination and drive will push herself to excellence. She thrives on competition."

Natural ability and determination are qualities that Simmons - a lean, agile 6-footer - and Jordan - who comes from good stock being the daughter of two-sport professional athlete Brian Jordan and former college basketball standout Pam Bryant-Jordan - definitely share.

And with both sports sharing a lot of the same skills necessary to be successful, the transition has yielded good results. It also has worked well with several other county athletes who play both sports, such as Parkview's Lauren Coleman and Grace Leah Baughn and Anna Keappler at Wesleyan.

But make no mistake, both Jordan and Simmons have become more than merely basketball players who rely solely on their outstanding athleticism on the volleyball court.

"She's played volleyball for six years," Norcross coach Kevin Dove said of Jordan. "Her sophomore year, we played GAC, and we saw her then. Surprisingly, she showed up the first day of our tryouts the next year. It was a wonderful surprise for us."

After earning first-team all-county honors a year ago with 250 kills, 108 blocks and 45 service aces, Simmons has once-again been a powerful force this season with 350 kills and 77 blocks in helping the Hawks to the Region 7-AAAAA title.

Jordan, meanwhile, also earned first-team all-county honors a year ago with 246 kills, 229 digs and 70 aces, and has continued that hard work this season with 320 kills - which rank No. 8 in the state - 197 digs and 31 aces.

However, their paths to becoming more volleyball savvy have taken similar paths. For Simmons, it began her freshman season at Mill Creek.

"I was definitely focused more on basketball, but I tried out for volleyball just for fun," Simmons said. "I made the freshman team and we won a championship, and it kind of escalated from there.

"Probably my junior year - that's when my hitting started getting harder and I was placing them closer to the 10-foot line. That's when the colleges started calling."

Though Jordan's volleyball career started a few years earlier than Simmons, she started playing her "second" sport for a similar reason.

"I started playing in middle school at GAC because a lot of my friends had joined the team and were having fun," Jordan said. "I guess it kind of took off from there."

But while Simmons and Jordan have taken the similar paths to success, those paths figure to separate once they leave for college next season.

Though given the opportunity to play both sports at Clemson, Simmons has decided to accept a scholarship to play only volleyball at the ACC school beginning next fall, a decision that wasn't particularly easy to make.

"I thought it would be extremely hard for me to play both (in college), so I had to choose," Simmons said. "It was the hardest decision of my life. There were so many thoughts running through my head both ways.

"I played in a club volleyball tournament (over the summer), and my team was doing really good, and it kind of just clicked. But I'm going to miss basketball so much."

Meanwhile, Jordan remains one of the county's top basketball prospects, which such programs as Miami, Florida, N.C. State and Georgia Tech, among others, heavily recruiting her.

And while she has enjoyed volleyball, she knows her athletic future remains with hoops.

"I love volleyball, but basketball is my passion," Jordan said.