Jacob (Jake) Simmons was a talented athlete, fierce competitor and a great teammate.
Those are a few of the ways Kyle Gillis remembers the big man with a high basketball IQ and soft touch on the court at Charlottetown Rural High School.
“What I find so impressive is he had so many circles of friends in high school. He wasn’t just part of the basketball community; he had his own friends outside of that,” said Gillis, noting Simmons was also part of the chess club.
“He was just a well-rounded person and I think he touched a lot of lives at the Rural. That’s a big testament to him.”
Simmons, 27, died Friday night when he was struck by a car while he was riding his bike on Route 210 in Kinross. The first people on the scene performed first aid, but he succumbed to his injuries, RCMP said in a release Saturday.
The Mounties received 911 calls about the collision around 6 p.m. on Friday. They were told the vehicle involved did not remain at the scene.
Police arrested a 43-year-old Queens County woman Friday night and took her to the Montague detachment where she provided breath samples that were twice the legal limit.
She was released Saturday and is facing several charges including impaired driving causing death and failing to remain at the scene of an accident.
The road was closed for most of Friday evening as an RCMP collision analyst, drone operator and forensics officers gathered information as part of their investigation.
The RCMP said the woman’s vehicle will be impounded for six months due to the seriousness of the situation. The investigation is continuing.
Gillis received a call from his mother Saturday, letting him know one of his longtime teammates had been killed.
“It’s definitely a shock and it takes a few minutes to really absorb it,” he said. “The memories start flowing in once you really do sit down and give it some thought.”
The six-foot-seven Simmons attended university and played basketball at St. FX University in Antigonish, N.S., Olds College in Alberta and Holland College in Charlottetown.
The Point Prim resident recently got back into running and was named the 2019 male roadrunner of year by P.E.I. Roadrunners Club. Simmons, who worked on the family’s mixed berry farm and with the family’s tile drainage business, was preparing for runs in Newfoundland and Fredericton, N.B., before the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) pandemic.
Gillis remembers playing against Simmons in intermediate school. Gillis was at Stonepark and Simmons was at Birchwood. They became teammates that summer on a provincial team and later at Charlottetown Rural.
Gillis remembers spending two or three hours a day, six days a week together with his teammates as they worked on their games. They would get into the gym early to get up shots before classes would begin.
“You kind of get to know those guys as well as anybody,” Gillis said. About three weeks ago, they talked about getting together for a barbecue as some of the COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.
He said Simmons was a fearless leader with a strong personality who pushed his teammates in practice.
“As soon as you got on the floor with your jersey on and you’re playing against your opponent, he’s the first guy to go to bat for you. (He was) very team-oriented and a good friend,” Gillis said. “He wasn’t part of a supporting cast; he was the ringleader.”
Gillis and Simmons met on the basketball court just before the pandemic shut everything down in mid-March. Gillis’s team won the game, but it wasn’t easy as Simmons hit about 12 of his 15 shots from the field that night.
“I believe wholeheartedly that he was playing the best basketball of his life,” Gillis said.
Simmons had returned to running recently after a decade away while concentrating on basketball.
An interview with him was posted on March 13 on Transformations Through Running podcast.
“He overcame a broken wrist, torn meniscus and an ulcer in his cornea which led him to quit cigarettes and lose 40 pounds,” the episode summary says.
Gillis was proud of his friend for the changes he had made in his life in the past couple of years.
“I find it to be the most impressive story of personal growth that I’ve ever seen in one of my peers,” he said. “He just had a lot of good things going.”