LIMA — Lima schools students celebrated Xavier Simpson on Thursday, as superintendent Jill Ackerman proclaimed Go Blue for Xavier Simpson Day.
Simpson is a 2016 graduate of Lima Senior High School and led the Lima Senior basketball team to the state finals that year. He also was named Ohio’s Mr. Basketball in 2016.
This year he has been instrumental in Michigan’s run to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament. The Wolverines (32-7) play Loyola of Chicago (32-5) at 6:09 p.m. Saturday. Simpson has been part of a three-man point guard rotation, starting 27 games and averaging 7.5 points and nearly four assists per game.
On Thursday, students and staff throughout Lima schools were encouraged to wear either blue or Michigan shirts to show their support of Simpson. Ron Ackerman had a shirt made for Jill at Christmas that says “Supporting Lima Senior grad Xavier Simpson” on the back. He contacted Simpson’s father, Quincy, on whether the shirt should read Xavier or Zavier, since the national media keeps referring to him as Zavier. Quincy told him that Xavier is the correct spelling, as that’s how he is known in Lima and to the Lima area.
“Whether we are Michigan fans or not, we support Xavier,” said Jill Ackerman. “Our mantra has been family for a long time. That’s what Quincy Simpson brought into the district when he came in as coach. So we try to be that supportive and I want kids to realize that Xavier is a role model, and that any kid can achieve these kind of things, if they just put their mind to it.”
Lima West Middle School students painted posters supporting Simpson in addition to wearing blue or Michigan shirts.
“I think our kids are actively involved. I think they follow the tournament, as basketball is a highly interesting sport and it gives our kids the opportunity to follow a local guy on the national level to see the impact that he’s had and the success that he’s had on the court, as well as academically at the University of Michigan. Whether X realizes it or not, I think he’s a role model to a lot of students in the Lima City Schools,” said West Middle School principal T.J. Winkler.
It’s about more than basketball to the students, said eighth-grade students at West.
“He is a role model to the younger kids. He is just inspiring young kids to work hard to maybe get where he’s at now. He was really good academically and it will keep kids focused,” said Cameron Miles.
“I think it’s a really great thing and interesting that he is from here and it’s a great experience to watch. I know if I keep my hard work up I can be at that level someday,” added Cecil Benton.
Khalil Luster is a friend of Simpson’s. Luster became a Michigan fan the day Xavier signed with the Wolverines.
“I’m only a Michigan basketball fan,” said Luster.
Simpson’s impact is on the school and the city.
“It’s fantastic having someone actually go into the playoffs and representing the city,” said Skyler Williams.
Reach Merri Hanjora at 567-242-0511.