Ben Simmons is not your average 16-year old. The son of Melbourne Tigers legend Dave Simmons, Ben’s a 6-foot-8 (and still growing) combo forward and considered to be Australia’s top basketball prospect coming through the ranks. In fact, according to CBSSports, “Simmons would likely be the No. 1 player in the class of 2015 if he attended high school in the United States.” So yeah, the lad can play.
NBAMate recently caught up with Ben (via email) to talk about his phenomenal year, his plans for the future and much more.
You’ve really burst on to the scene in 2012; you were a standout player in the under-17 world championships in Lithuania, and you wowed scouts and dominated the competition at both the Pangos All American Camp in Long Beach and the adidas Nations skills camp in LA. Tell us a bit about those experiences and what it did for your game.
BS: All of those experiences helped me become a better player and of course playing against the top players made me more determined to improve my game. I really enjoyed those opportunities because it’s the only way to really test yourself.
You recently returned from a scholarship with the AIS. How was that experience?
BS: The AIS was a great opportunity for me but I don’t think the timing was right. For the short time I was there the training I received was great and the coaches made sure we were all ready to go.
You’re currently in year 10 at high school, but there’s some talk that you may transfer to the US to complete your final year. Have you made a decision on that yet?
BS: I haven’t made that decision yet and right now I’m just focusing on doing well here.
You’ve indicated in the past that attending college in the US is a priority. Do you have any programs in mind at this stage?
BS: I have been talking to several colleges but at this stage I’m not too sure. LSU and University of Washington are interested but it’s too early to make that decision. I’ll just see what comes along.
What was it like growing up as the son of a famous basketball player, and being around the Melbourne Tigers program in its heyday?
BS: It was great growing up around so many great players and coaches and I have been able to learn a lot from them.
Do you get an opportunity to work on your game with your dad these days?
BS: Yes, we often go shoot and workout and in my family we are always talking about basketball.
Ok, a game of one-on-one between you and your dad – today. Who wins?
BS: Sometimes Dad, sometimes me. He’s still pretty good for an old guy and he definitely has plenty of strength over me but I’m quicker. We’re also a really competitive family and playing one-on-one against my brothers and sister Olivia is always fun now because I can beat them!
What do you feel are the strengths in your game, and the things you need to work on?
BS: Some of my strengths would be my shooting, ball handling, defence and court vision – I think I read the game pretty well too. My weaknesses would be my overall body strength and consistency with my shot, and I also need to work on my low post game.
How closely do you follow the NBA? Do you have League Pass?
BS: I watch every game and I’m always looking at ways to improve my game from players such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay and many others. Yes I have league pass.
Who are your favourite teams/players in the NBA?
BS: My favourite teams would have to be Heat and Knicks and my favourite players are LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Patty Mills.
For those people who are not familiar with your game, can you compare your skillset to another player in the NBA?
BS: I think I play a similar game to Rudy Gay but would love to be like LeBron James, but I need to get a lot stronger.
Do you have aspirations to play for the Boomers in future Olympic games? What are the chances we’ll see you in Brazil in 2016?
BS: That is definitely one of my goals. I’d love to play in the 2016 Olympics alongside so many great players.
Three quick questions to finish up: 1) who wins the NBA Championship this season; 2) LeBron James will win how many titles in his career; and 3) if you were the Thunder GM, would you have pulled the trigger on a James Harden trade?
BS: 1) Miami Heat. 2) LeBron will win 4. 3) It has its pros and cons but I think both teams got a good deal, with Martin and Lamb.
Some highlights of Ben tearing up the adidas Nations skills camp in LA