Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Meet the NBA's Next #1 Pick: Ben Simmons

A year from now NBA commissioner Adam Silver is going to be announcing the first pick of the 2016 NBA Draft. Although it may seem early to speculate who will be picked when, it's important to realize that Australian Ben Simmons will be picked first.  If you knew Michael Jordan was going to be the best basketball player of all time, you would have gone to see him in high school, and then drooled over him in college.  Although Simmons is not the next Jordan, he is the next big star and you need to start following him now if you haven't already.

When you look at him you must think that Simmons is a 6-10 power forward.  Yes, he is. But in reality no, he can really do anything on the floor and can be classified as a point forward or the same position that LeBron plays.  In high school, the Aussie would play point guard and run his team's offense, sit on the wing and create mismatches, and mostly dominate his opponents in the paint with athleticism, strength, but mostly basketball I.Q.

As a Sophomore in High School, Simmons moved to Florida and began playing at Montverde Academy.  That year he helped lead his team a national title against St. Benedcit's Prep.  He also played in the Jordan Brand Classic International Game that year, as a sophomore!  Although he was not even the first option on this team, he had time to learn from some of the nations top talent.  He was playing alongside Florida point guard Kasey Hill, West Virginia forward Devin Williams, and NBA draftee and ex-Kentucky center Dakari Johnson.

Then it was time for Simmons to prove he deserved the title, "the nation's best player." In his junior season he averaged 18.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game while leading his team to a perfect 28-0 record and another National Championship.  All season long he had dominated opponents while playing in a pick and roll offense with the Lakers #2 pick D'Angello Russell.  In a few years you will be able to look back on this team as one of the best ever.

Then the winter of 2014-15 rolls around.  Although Simmons had been in the Montverde Gym countless times, something was new about his presence this year.  He came in faster, bigger, and stronger.  Everyone knew he was the best player in country, but he still wanted to prove that to everyone in the world.  Throughout the season he would captivate crowds and leave fans in disbelief of what they were seeing.  "Did a 6-10 kid just dribble up the court, spin around the defender, and throw a pin point accurate pass past two defenders in the paint to his teammate for an easy two?"  In addition to that Simmons also came in with an improved jumper, and he also became more agile.  In 29 games, the Aussie averaged 28 points, 11.9 rebounds, 4 assists, 2.6 steals per game.  He also recorded 24 double-doubles and shot 70.7% from the field.  After dominating opponents all over the country throughout the regular season, Simmons had one more stage to validate the success of his high-school career.  The Dick's National Championship.  Could he win a elusive third and final championship?  Throughout the three games in the tournament Simmons averaged 19.3 points and 11.7 rebounds per game en route to a title giving Oak Hill their first loss of the season.

Then came all the accolades that come with being the best high school player in the country.  Simmons was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year, the Naismith National Prep Player of the Year, a McDonald's All American, Jordan Brand All-Star, Morgan Wootten Award Winner, First Team Parade All-American, and he even played in the Nike Hoop Summit.

Now, Simmons is prepping for his freshman and possibly only season at LSU.  Yes, the number one player in the country is going to LSU, not Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, North Carolina, or any of the other top programs in the country.  This further proves how unique Simmons is.  Instead of following in the footsteps of numerous players in front of him, Simmons decided to go to a school that is not even considered a national powerhouse and recruited his friends to come play with him.  Antonio Blakeney, also from Florida, will be going to Louisiana to dominate the college scene along with Simmons.  Blakeney is ranked as the #3 shooting guard in the incoming NCAA freshman class, and can score the ball with ease.  The two have already started working out together, even before they head off to college to start team workouts.  They are serious about winning and know they have to and are probably going to dominate this season.

Then came this past weekend, the power duo of Simmons and Blakeney attended the Nike Basketball Academy in Santa Monica, California. The Nike event boasts both a college camp and high school camp.  While the number of high school kids nears 100, there was only 27 college players attending. Only two of them were incoming freshmen.  Those two were Simmons and Blakeney.

While in California, they received guidance from Nike's top players including Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins, DeMar Derozan, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, and even Kobe Bryant.  The NBA players helped lead them through workouts, drills, and scrimmages.  The players even got to play against the NBA stars.  While many focused on finding the next high school star over the weekend, Simmons was showing that he is already a star, and that he is ready to be a superstar.

This year at LSU will be the ultimate test for an already proven Simmons.  He is only a freshman in college and can hold his own against the top NBA talent, has won 3 high school national championships, and is by far one of the best high school talents we have seen over the past few years. At LSU he will have to prove that he can produce at a high level, play against tough competition in the SEC, and also that he is durable enough to make it through a whole season.

Besides being the nation's best high school player and a highly touted NBA prospect, Simmons also boasts more skill than your typical power forward.  First of all, he is well rounded and can play positions 1- 4.  He can also pass the ball like a point guard, run the floor, and weave through a defense.  Most importantly he understands the game better than any opponent he will ever face. When you first see Simmons you are immediately impressed by his physical stature, then his ability to score the ball, and throw down crazy dunks, while sending shots into the stands on the defensive end.  But there is more than that to the humble star.  He also has the potential to be the point guard on an NBA team, or a small forward on a playoff team, or even a power forward on a championship team.  His basketball I.Q. is through the roof which allows him to dominate the game from any spot or situation on the floor.

Ben Simmons is that good great.  By the time next June rolls around, don't be surprised when a 6 foot 10, humble, and proven Australian star walks across the stage as the NBA's next #1 pick in the 2016 draft.  While he walks across the stage he may be able to gloat an NCAA Championship, and NCAA player of the year honors.  Then a couple years down the road he may be an NBA Champion or the NBA's MVP.  Yes, it is extremely early and crazy to predict or say any of this about him.  But Ben Simmons carries an unlimited amount of potential and excitement entering his freshman season at LSU.  Ben Simmons can do everything, and will end up being everything and more that is expected of him.

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