LSU’s freshman sensation Ben Simmons has taken NCAA basketball by storm. His numbers through his team’s first seven games are eye-popping, and he has already drawn comparisons to some all-time basketball greats at just age 19. A huge game earlier this month against North Florida really turned some heads and now the entire basketball world seems to be talking about Simmons.
Here’s everything you need to know about the teenage hoops phemon.
1. Ben Simmons Was Born in Australia, and Played High School Ball in Florida
Ben Simmons was born in Melbourne, Australia to parents Julie and Dave Simmons. His mother Julie went into contractions during the opening ceremony of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. His father, Dave, was a basketball superstar in Australia’s National Basketball League who helped lead the Melbourne Tigers to their first league championship in 1993.
The good genes were evident from early on; by the age of four, Ben was competing in basketball against seven-year-olds. At seven, he played for under-12 teams. After a long talk with his parents, Simmons opted for Montverde Academy, a school in Montverde, Fla., near Orlando. Simmons left his family behind in Melbourne, where he had attended Box Hill Senior Secondary College.
2. Ben Simmons Was the No. 1 Overall Recruit and Chose LSU Over Other Basketball Powers
Simmons gained exposure as a high schooler playing ball at Montverde (Fla.) Academy in Montverde, Fla. Simmons has led Montverde to a No. 2 ranking nationally in this his senior season.
His first three seasons were just as impressive. In his freshman year, Simmons contributed off the bench as Montverde went on to win the High School National Championship. They won again in his sophomore season, with Simmons starting at power forward. In April 2015, Simmons led Montverde to a third straight title and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
Simmons selected to play at LSU, a non-traditional basketball school, disappointing the likes of powerhouse programs Duke, Kansas, Florida, Miami, Kentucky, Michigan and UCLA.
3. His Huge Early Season Game against Northern Fla. Put him in Elite Company
Ben Simmons brought LSU out of its three-game losing streak in a big way on Dec. 2 against North Florida. Simmons finished the night with 43 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists, five steals and three blocks on 15-of-20 shooting from the field as the Tigers got a 119-108 victory. With the effort Simmons became the only major conference player in the last 20 seasons with at least 40 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals in a game, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Simmons’ 43 points were also the most by an LSU player since Shaquille O’Neal also scored 43 in 1991.
North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll was certainly impressed by Simmons following the game. He told AL.com:
“This dude guards. This dude rebounds. This guy gets steals and his IQ is off the roof, and I’ve never seen a more complete package,” Driscoll said. “His overall game and his overall talent is as great as I’ve ever seen. … (Kevin) Durant was the best offensive player — not even close. But I’m talking about the overall talent (with Simmons). Wow!”
4. Ben Simmons Has Already Gotten Comparisons to LeBron James
Ben Simmons has taken the NCAA by storm, posting averages of 19.9 points, 14.9 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 2.4 steals and 1.6 blocks through the Tigers’ first seven games. His high level of play has caused many to draw comparisons between Simmons and the player that many consider to be the best in the game, LeBron James.
James, for one, is OK with the comparisons being made. The relationship between the two goes back long before Simmons was playing collegiately. James has been watching Simmons play for years, and the duo spent time together at the Nike Basketball Academy this past summer in Santa Monica, Calif.
Said James last week before the Cavs’ overtime loss to the Pelicans in New Orleans: “Someone’s going to be compared to someone all the time, and I don’t mind him being compared to me. People not only recognizing what he does on the floor, but he’s a great kid, too. He has a great family, great support system, and that’s why he’s able to do what he [does] on the floor.”
5. Ben Simmons and Shaquille O’Neal Share a Very Strong Relationship
LeBron James isn’t the only internationally renowned hoops star to have Ben Simmons’ back. NBA legend and LSU Tiger alum Shaquille O’Neal was so excited after Simmons declared his intent to play for the Tigers that he posted a photo of Simmons on his Instagram account with the comment: “LSU just signed the best player in the world. Check him out.” Another LSU great and former NBA player, Ricky Blanton, declared Simmons the best LSU signee since Shaq played in Baton Rouge from 1988-1992.
Shaq also became quite protective of Simmons last month when an Instagram user tried belittle Simmons’ ability. That social media comment apparently awoke the slumbering giant:
To recap, Shaq threateningly posted: “And me and ben kno your mom very well but we Dnt kno which one of us can be your father. Watch your mouth Dnt make me discipline you. Son,”