skip navigation

South Jersey product Derek Simpson lands at St. Joe's after transfer from Rutgers

04/04/2024, 6:15pm EDT
By Owen McCue

By Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)

St. Joe’s was on Derek Simpson’s top list of schools coming out of Lenape (N.J.) three years ago. Rutgers won the recruiting battle back then, enticing Simpson to Piscataway, N.J. for the last two years.

When Simpson went into the transfer portal earlier this spring, the Hawks shot up to his top list of school’s once again. This time they won out over the other programs he was considering.

The 6-foot-3 sophomore guard announced his commitment to St. Joe’s on Tuesday.

Rutgers transfer Derek Simpson is transferring to St. Joe's. (Photo: Rutgers Athletics)

“My mom and my dad were a big part of my recruitment coming out of high school,” Simpson said. “My dad and my mom kind of told me, ‘This is your decision. This is your basketball career. This is how you want to spend the rest of your college years.' I really started to figure it out by myself. I think this is one of the biggest decisions I’ve made for myself in a while because this is my career, and I want to spend the next two years at St. Joe’s. That’s my goal.”

Simpson played in 66 games in two seasons at Rutgers. He started 25 of 32 games this past season, averaging 8.3 ppg and 2.9 apg, while shooting 30.5 percent from the field and 28.2 percent from 3-point range.

Fordham, Delaware and George Washington were the other programs he was considering. He had an idea the Atlantic 10 Conference would be a good fit after two years in the Big 10.

“The Big 10 was probably one of the best experiences I went through because I played against a lot of great players and all, but at this point in my career I’m just trying to go where it fits me the best and where I have the opportunity to thrive at the best of my ability,” Simpson said.

Hawks fifth-year head coach Billy Lange was in his third season when Simpson was a senior at Lenape in 2021-22. Coming off 6-26 and 5-15 campaigns, the Hawks went 11-19 that season.

St. Joe’s improved to 16-17 last year and improved to 21-14 this season, including a 9-9 mark in the league. It was the best season overall for St. Joe’s since 2015-16 and most conference wins since 2017-18.

That caught Simpson’s eye.

Lenape (N.J.) product Derek Simpson played his grassroots ball for K-Low Elite. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

“Now with the NIL stuff I think they have good qualities within that. I also think their play style and their players have gotten better,” Simpson said. “I think (Lange) has been able to develop a lot more kids since he was recruiting me in high school. It’s been about two, three years. It’s just a lot of things. They’re playing in a big classic next year at the Barclays Center. … It shows that he recruited the right players for his system, and I’m trusting him that he recruited me to play in the right system too.”

The Hawks lose Cameron Brown (11.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg) to graduation and junior guard Lynn Greer III (10.9 ppg, 3.7 apg), redshirt-freshman forward Christ Essandoko (8.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and junior wing Kacper Klaczek (4.2 ppg) to the transfer portal. Still, Simpson joins a group that should have plenty of talent back.

At the moment, junior guard Erik Reynolds (17.3 ppg) and freshman guard Xzayvier Brown (12.7 ppg), the team’s top two scorers, are both set to return from last season’s A-10 semifinal squad. Sophomore forward Rasheer Fleming (10.7 ppg, 7.4 rpg), freshman forward Anthony Finkley and redshirt-freshman wing Shawn Simmons are all key pieces likely back as well.

Simpson knows Brown and Finkley through the K-Low Elite program and has gone against Fleming and freshman forward Dasear Haskins, both South Jersey products who played at Camden. He saw the Hawks play in person on March 20 when he attended their game at Seton Hall in the first round of the NIT.

“I think we can play off each other very well,” Simpson said of Reynolds and Brown. “I think our IQ and our ability can really create something together. I’m just looking forward to playing with them guys. I know they’re high IQ basketball players, and I’ve seen it firsthand in person watching them play. They’re big-time players, and I’m looking forward to getting around them and get playing.”

While he saw the Hawks play in person last month, Simpson hasn’t been to Hagan Arena since his sophomore year at Lenape. Though it took a few extra years, he’s excited to call Hawk Hill home for the rest of his college career.

“I think this past year was a very eyepoening experience for me when it came to basketball, my mind, off the court stuff,” Simpson said. “I learned a lot about myself, and I'm just trying to put it all together and try to be an all-conference dude, and I want to win games. The individual success comes after you get the team success first. I’m trying to make big things happen at St. Joe’s with the guys.”

D-I Coverage:

HS Coverage:

Small-College News:

Recruiting News:

Tag(s): Home  Contributors  Owen McCue  College  Division I  St. Joe's