HARROGATE, Tenn. -- Lincoln Memorial University men's basketball seniors Gerel Simmons, Curtis McMillion and Jalen Steele have signed with a professional agent to begin the next phase of their basketball careers. That trio, which helped lead the Railsplitters to the program's first-ever national championship game appearance this past season, continue a tradition of LMU men's hoops players going pro, as they follow in the footsteps of former standouts D'Mario Curry, Desmond Johnson, Brandon Armstrong, Vincent Bailey, Lorenzo Ross and Keenan Peterson. Simmons, McMillion and Steele will learn where they will be playing later this summer.
"For each of them and a lot of the guys that come through our program, that's one of their ambitions," LMU head men's hoops coach Josh Schertz said regarding the chance to play professional basketball.
"To see it come to fruition is incredible. Those three guys are deserving of the opportunity. These are guys that have played tremendous roles in the success of the program over their time here. I'm excited for those three guys. I always think that's the second-best day of the offseason. The best will be on May 7, when we have seven guys walk across the stage and get their degree. In the offseason, those are the two best days: the day you have guys sign to play professional basketball and the day those guys walk across that stage and grab their degrees." Simmons -- a consensus All-American for the 2015-16 campaign -- is coming off of one of the most impressive seasons in the history of the LMU men's basketball program. The Accokeek, Md., native led the Railsplitters in scoring with 20.9 points per game while shooting 51.4 percent from the field and 47.8 percent from the three. The 6-2 shooting guard chipped in 4.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game and shot 81 percent from the charity stripe. Simmons played 32.5 minutes per game and scored double figures in 35 of his 37 appearances, earning multiple All-Southeast Region accolades in the process. Despite playing just two seasons for the Railsplitters, Simmons, who transferred from Brevard in 2013 before making his debut in the 2014-15 season, racked up 1,120 career points in the Blue and Gray, including 773 points this past season, which are the fourth-most points in the program's single-season history. During his two seasons, Simmons went 136 for 295 from three-point range, finishing his career as the all-time leader in three-point field-goal percentage with a 46.1 percent clip. He also ranks ninth in school history in three-pointers made and 25th in points. "It's an amazing feeling just to think about all of the hard work put in over the years and now to see that on paper, to be able to get that agent, go on to the next level and start the next phase," Simmons said. McMillion spent five seasons at Lincoln Memorial, redshirting the 2011-12 campaign before officially beginning his playing career in 2012-13. A 6-6 forward from Fayetteville, N.C., McMillion steadily increased his production each season, averaging 2.5 points and 2.5 rebounds per game as a freshman before compiling 8.9 points and 5.2 rebounds per game as a senior. In his four seasons, McMillion accumulated 855 points, 584 rebounds and 129 blocks, ranking third in school history in blocks and 11th in rebounds. He is the program's all-time leader in career field-goal percentage with a gaudy 62.7 percent mark (304 for 485) while he is tied for the career record in games played with 125. Most importantly, the Railsplitters won four consecutive South Atlantic Conference regular-season titles during McMillion's tenure. Over that span, Lincoln Memorial compiled a 117-15 overall record, as McMillion departs as the program and South Atlantic Conference's all-time winningest player over a four-season span. "As soon as I got here I knew that I wanted to play overseas," McMillion said. "Coach (Schertz) said I had the ability to, so I had just had to keep working and keep trying to get better and better every day." In his one and only season with the Railsplitters, Steele, a Knoxville, Tenn., native and graduate of Fulton High School, averaged 16.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per game while breaking the SAC and program record for three-pointers made in a season with 127, accomplishing that feat while shooting 44.1 percent from deep. A transfer from Mississippi State, Steele also handed out 2.0 assists per game while shooting 46 percent from the field. Steele was tabbed as the National Player of the Week in late December after pouring in a career-high 40 points and going 10 for 12 from three-point range at Newberry on December 19. He was also voted as the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional Championship Most Valuable Player after scoring 22 points against Lander, 16 against Queens and 27 against Lenoir-Rhyne, helping send the Railsplitters to the Elite Eight for the first time in program history. "Through all the trials and tribulations I went through, coming from another school and not be able to play my senior year, to playing my senior year here at Lincoln Memorial and finishing off great, it's just a blessing," Steele said. "I really commend my patience, my family members and God for helping me out just to get past the trials and tribulations I went through." Behind that trio, the Railsplitters won a program-record 34 games, finished the season ranked No. 1 in the country and made the first men's basketball national title game appearance in program and South Atlantic Conference history. Along the way, Lincoln Memorial ripped off a program and SAC record 24 straight wins. The Railsplitters captured their fourth straight SAC regular-season title, won their third SAC tournament championship in six years and hosted the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional for the second consecutive year.
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