WHY IS SIXERS’ MULTIMILLIONAIRE BEN SIMMONS WHINING ABOUT THE NCAA, WHICH MADE HIM RICH??!!

By Peter Gleason

So, why is Sixers phenom Big Ben Simmons whining about the NCAA?

As the Sporting News has pointed out, he traveled an estimated 9,230 miles for the privilege of joining the LSU Tigers.

Simmons grew up in Melbourne — the city in Australia, not the smaller town on the Florida coast. His home country has a national institute of sport that has produced scores of professional basketball players and a competitive pro league that is open to 18-year-olds interested in competing and talented enough to attract the interest of its clubs

And yet he played high school basketball at Montverde Academy in Florida three years, and then he enrolled at LSU.

Simmons knew when he arrived on campus that he would be there a single year. The university embraced that arrangement with perhaps more enthusiasm than was decorous, and certainly more than the players who would become his teammates. But of all the paths to the NBA he might have chosen, Simmons took on the one that required the greatest personal adjustments from him.

“I felt like it helped me develop my game more,” Simmons said a year ago.

He subsequently became the No. 1 overall selection in the 2016 NBA Draft. The 76ers might have taken him first without any college experience, sure. But that $20 million Nike deal and that Showtime documentary that allowed him to voice all these complaints? Those probably don’t happen without a year of college basketball, where Simmons was on ESPN over and over again even as his team didn’t justify the spotlight. He was talked about as the next big thing, the presumptive No. 1 overall pick, even compared to LeBron James.

“The NCAA is messed up,” Simmons says in “One and Done: Ben Simmons,” which was filmed during his time in Baton Rouge. “I don’t have a voice. I don’t get paid to do it.

“Just wait. Just wait. I can be a voice for everybody in college. I’m here because I have to be here. I can’t get a degree in two semesters, so it’s kind of pointless. I feel like I’m wasting time.”

It’s understandable Simmons did not enjoy his one season at LSU. His teammates obviously resented his presence on the court, even though his 158 assists in a single season demonstrated a willingness to share the basketball that afflicted few of his teammates. The Tigers dropped six of their final 10 games, including a humiliating, 34-point, semifinal defeat at the SEC Tournament. They did not reach the NCAA Tournament.

He apparently went out of his way, though, to not enjoy his one year at LSU. He stopped attending classes after the first term, citing the inability to earn a degree in the short time separating him from the NBA draft. He said in front of the cameras he didn’t “need” to go and that he was “here to play.” A subsequent benching over this decision created a small public embarrassment for Simmons last winter. That coach Johnny Jones did not exact a stiffer price for his semester-long absences will create a bigger one for the basketball program as the awareness of this film spreads.

Simmons’ experience at LSU inevitably will be presented as representative of the typical “one-and-done” player. Those who are opposed to the NBA Draft age limit have used — and will use — whatever is available, and a film showing an elite prospect rejecting school and complaining about his college making money off him is a fairly potent weapon.

But Simmons’ circumstance is more the exception, both on the court and off. Few of the very best prospects have failed to push their teams into the NCAA Tournament, for instance. Almost none have been the singular subject of billboard campaigns to push season tickets. And the possibility of APR penalties assures most coaches endeavor to keep their players attending and passing classes through the end of the spring semester.

John Calipari has coached 17 players who’ve spent a single season at Kentucky before leaving for the draft. All but one of them fulfilled his expectation of completing the second term.

In the film, some members of Simmons’ family complain about the college basketball arrangement. “If you get a kid who’s a child prodigy and plays the violin amazingly, no one’s saying to them you must go to college for a year before you join the philharmonic orchestra,” said Simmons’ mother, Julie.

Here’s the thing, though: No one said Ben Simmons — or any other elite basketball prospect — must attend college, either. They just can’t play in the NBA for a year after they graduate high school. The NBA’s D-League is open to those who wish to play professionally before entering the draft, as are leagues in Europe, Asia and, just to underscore it, Australia.

There’ve been three Australians chosen in the draft’s top 10 since 2014. Simmons was the only one who attended a U.S. college.

Utah guard Dante Exum changed his mind about college and remained in high school in Australia prior to the 2014 draft. Thon Maker played at a prep school in Canada before being chosen nine spots behind Simmons in 2016. American basketball fans knew almost nothing about them when they were selected, though. Simmons was a household name among basketball fans when he was picked; he’d been touted by (too) many as an approximation of LeBron James prior to his first game at LSU.

That’s the arrangement Simmons made in choosing to play NCAA basketball. Whereas his countrymen arrived in the U.S. as near unknowns, their names familiar only to those who scour through mock drafts and scouting services, Simmons was greeted by a massive Nike deal and a Showtime movie.

“I came here to win,” Simmons says in the film.

It didn’t work out quite that way. But he didn’t lose, either.

AdTech Ad

About admin

Loading Facebook Comments ...

Leave a Reply