Your Prep Sports
WEST BRANCH – Any time that Simon Palmer had basketball in his hands last season he had one main objective – putting the ball in the hoop.
Palmer had success in his role as a hoop hunter last season averaging 10.7 points per game during his junior season which was his first as a full-time starter.
After spending the offseason working on polishing the rest of his skills Palmer entered this season with the same goal of putting points on the scoreboard.
Only this season Palmer is helping West Branch pile up points in a variety of different ways.
“Last year I was just focused on scoring every time on all my touches,” Palmer said. “This year I get the ball more and I try to make more happen. I’ve been able to get the ball to other guys.”
Since switching his focus from being a finisher to a facilitator Palmer has become one of the more difficult matchups in Class 2A.
Palmer has upped his scoring average to 11.6 points per game as a senior while sharing the team lead in assists at 2.8 per game.
After handing out 18 assists in 23 games a year ago Palmer already has 51 in 18 games this season while helping West Branch to a 19-2 record.
“My playmaking has improved a lot,” Palmer said. “I’ve had a lot more assists, I feel like I’m seeing the floor a lot better and I try to get my teammates the ball because I know what those guys can do and what they are capable of.”
A more well-rounded Palmer has become a pair for opposing defenders.
The 6-foot-5 Palmer has made 14 3-pointers, is shooting a team-leading 83 percent from the free throw line and leads the Bears with 6.7 rebounds per game.
“He does so many things, he’s the ultimate Swiss Army Knife,” West Branch coach Jason Kern said. “He facilitates well for us, he can shoot it from outside, if he has a mismatch we will put him in the post and he’s really gotten good at rebounding.”
The improvement across the board for Palmer has been impressive.
Along with his increased playmaking on offense that has produced a rise in his scoring and assist totals Palmer is averaging career-bests in steals and blocked shots.
Kern credits the growth from Palmer to his work in the offseason and his desire to become a better all-around player.
“Simon has improved so much and it’s all to him and the work that he put in during the offseason to get better,” Kern said. “He worked hard in the weight room, he worked a lot on his game and it is really paying off because he’s play really good ball.”
The evolution of Palmer as a playmaking point forward of sorts along with the addition of freshman point guard Holden Arnaman has made defending West Branch a puzzle for most teams.
With 6-foot-5 senior Jeff Bowie in the paint and sharp-shooting guards like Gavin Hierseman and Peyton Miller opponents must pick who they attempt to stop.
Often, Palmer has been the focal point for defenses which is fine with Kern.
“He is a lot of teams’ keys coming into games along with Bowie but when we get both of those guys playing together and we get some guys knocking down some threes we are pretty hard to guard,” Kern said.
Palmer is part of what makes West Branch such a tough matchup as a team.
A versatile 6-foot-5 player that can pass and shoot isn’t something most teams can match.
“He is aggressive off the dribble taking it to the hole, he’s an athletic kid,” Kern said. “He really is that Swiss Army Knife for us. He can do anything we ask him to do.”