The junior duo of Morristown East basketball just did something special, and neither of them was surprised that the other one accomplished this feat.
This season, both Micah Simpson and Braden Ilic surpassed 1,000 points scored in their high school career wearing a ‘Canes uniform. Simpson knew Ilic would accomplish great things in his career, and Ilic thought the same of Simpson.
“I don’t think either of us was worried about getting 1,000 points,” Simpson said. “We just wanted to add wins to our record. We know what kind of team we have this year so that’s really what we are focused on—winning games.
It is cool to see us both have 1,000 points together, though.”
Simpson, the six-foot guard, earned his 1,000th point during the second game of the 2020-2021 season against East Hamilton on Nov. 21.
The 6’10” center, Ilic, eclipsed 1,000 points on Jan. 8 against Jefferson County. Now, head coach Alden Collins is sitting with a pair of juniors who have each joined the 1,000-point club.
“It is special to see Simpson and Ilic accomplish this knowing them from an early age,” Collins said. “To reach a pinnacle point like this is a great success. I’m so proud to see all of their hard work get them to this point.”
Both Ilic and Simpson agreed that having each other as teammates made accomplishing this goal much easier with the way they complement each other’s games.
Simpson enjoys having Ilic in the paint so he can free himself up around the perimeter, where he has become lethal from outside.
“It’s nice to have someone like Ilic down low,” Simpson said. “Usually defenders are always attacking him whenever he gets the ball inside so that leaves me or someone else open for a shot. He always makes the right pass and it makes it a lot easier to score.”
Of course, Ilic has to love having someone like Simpson take away pressure from the defense as he controls the paint.
With Simpson’s shooting ability, it has created more space for Ilic to score inside this season. Something Ilic wasn’t the biggest fan of last season.
“Simpson is an outside shooter giving me more freedom in the paint to score,” Ilic said. “Playing in the paint wasn’t my favorite thing to do last year. After putting in some work and seeing how good Simpson has gotten from outside, I am becoming a better post player.”
Whenever they aren’t dishing each other an outlet pass for a transition dunk or using a pick-n-roll to their advantage on offense, the two can be caught always joking with each other.
The duo’s relationship goes beyond the court.
“It’s great to have one of your best friends on the same team with you,” Ilic said. “We know when to be serious but we also like to have fun. I think it is a great balance for us. I think it helps the game come to us much easier.”
No goal is accomplished without the work put in behind the scenes, though.
Collins has seen every bit of growth from these two since he has coached them as freshmen for East basketball.
Ilic said it himself that him being in the weight room and putting in countless hours in the gym working on his footwork has helped his game a lot and Collins agrees.
“Both of these guys have grown up in basketball families, so first off props to their parents,” Ilic said. “They have worked so hard their whole life and I have seen them put countless hours in the gym during the offseason. Both of them already have God-given talent but they continue to add to that with the work they put in.”
And ironically for Simpson, football has helped him become a better basketball player.
The All-State receiver for the ‘Canes has used the skills he gained from football on the hardwood, from being more explosive to finishing through contact.
“I wasn’t able to be in the gym like I usually am because of the football season,” Simpson said. “Football has helped me in many ways with basketball, though. I’ve learned to be more aggressive and it has helped me finish through contact easier.”
They have both become leaders for their team early on, too.
Collins has seen it and continues to see them grow. He knows leading a team becomes much easier whenever every player on the roster has a great sense of chemistry and is not focused on their individual success.
“Each year seems like a new step for both of them,” Collins said. “They have both already shown the leadership they can provide for us. It isn’t about each other’s own success, though. We have a team that loves playing with each other and the game becomes a lot easier when you have those kinds of players on a team.”
And that is exactly how Simpson and Ilic think, too. The duo just wants to add wins to the column for East.
Knowing what the two have already done under Collins, a lot of potential has emerged for their senior seasons.
Ilic jokingly said Simpson would attend “The Crib University” and Simpson wasted no time joking back saying Ilic would earn a scholarship to “The Bed University.” The jokes each other have for the other just shows how much they love playing together.
“I’m working on my game all the time and I know Ilic is working on his game, too,” Simpson said. “There’s no telling what will happen our senior year. I won’t be surprised if Ilic gets to 2,000 points.”
Neither Ilic nor Simpson will be surprised what the other do their senior year with their endless potential. Just like neither of them was surprised that the other reached 1,000 points by their junior season.