Simmons awaits NBA Draft Day
BATON ROUGE – For Ben Simmons, after the one-and-done of college basketball, the moment he has been thinking about for years is finally at hand.
The specially designed suit will be put on; he will gather with family and friends, including LSU head coach Johnny Jones at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn Thursday to await the start of the 7 p.m. CT 2016 NBA Draft.
He won’t wait long. After ESPN welcomes the television audience and sets the scene, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will walk to the podium and say what everyone seems to know already that Ben Simmons of LSU will be the first pick in the draft to the Philadelphia 76ers.
He will be the second LSU men’s basketball player selected in the top spot joining a player who became one of the icons in the game – Shaquille O’Neal – who was chosen by the Orlando Magic with the first pick in the 1992 NBA Draft.
In all, Simmons is expected to be the eighth LSU player picked in a pro league at the number one spot (NFL, NBA, WNBA, MLB, NPF).
Simmons will be LSU’s 15th first-round pick since 1952 in the NBA draft and Simmons will be the seventh to go in the top four. He will be the fourth in Coach Jones’ first four years to be drafted and his second first-round pick.
The native of Melbourne, Australia whose father David is from the Bronx and was a star in the Australian Basketball League, joined other draft prospects Wednesday for a pre-media draft availability.
Simmons has been coy about out right saying the 76ers will pick him, starting Tuesday night on “The Tonight Show” as Jimmy Fallon’s band “The Roots” gave Simmons a 76ers introduction as he came on stage. Earlier Wednesday with Andy Katz on ESPN, Simmons also took a “we’ll see” posture on what would happen Thursday night.
One of the more interesting quotes to come out Wednesday was in a USA Today interview with Scott Gleeson. Simmons, has is well-documented if a huge fan and friend of LeBron James and he said he admires James’ desire to prove others wrong.
“I try to play with an edge like that, too,” Simmons told Gleeson. “Because a lot of people say things about me and my character. People say a lot of things about LeBron but he just keeps having a good mentality and grinding. That’s what I try to do, proving people wrong by what I do on the court. LeBron’s been like a big brother to me, watching me play and giving me pointers on just little things. I really look up to him. Seeing him with that championship, that’s what it’s all about.”
The 76ers will make the first pick in the NBA Draft for the first time since choosing Allen Iverson with the top selection in 1996. Iverson, who will be enshrined (along with O’Neal) in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in September, was named the 1996-97 NBA Rookie of the Year and the 2000-01 NBA MVP with Philadelphia.
The 76ers also selected Doug Collins with the top pick in 1973. Philadelphia owned the top pick in 1986 by virtue of a previous trade with the Clippers, but the 76ers traded the pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who selected Brad Daugherty.
It is possible time the first 14 picks are done that comprise the teams in the NBA Lottery that as many as nine freshmen could have been selected. That list includes the other most talked about player in the draft, Brandon Ingram of Duke, and Kentucky players Skal Labissiere and Jamal Murray.
There were a record 13 college freshman selected in last year’s draft, three more than the previous high of 10 in 2008.
While Philadelphia put itself in position for this chance to get LSU’s Simmons with their regular season record, the odds that the draft lottery would end up as it did wasn’t in their favor. Since the lottery moved to its present format in 1994, the team with or tied for the best odds has won just five of the 23 lotteries. But Philadelphia beat the odds both times it was in the position, this year and in 1996.
Simmons, who won the Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year Award to highlight a list of FOY awards, averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.79 assists and 1.97 steals per game. He was the first player to finish in the top five in the Southeastern Conference in points, rebounds and assists.
LSU’s ninth first team All-America had 23 double doubles with six games of 20 points, 15 rebounds and five assists. He posted 17 games of 20 or more points, making 56 percent of his field goal attempts. He made 199 free throws during the year, certainly the most for an LSU player in the shot clock era and only icons Bob Pettit and Pete Maravich made more free throws for the Tigers in a single season.
Tiger Tim Quarterman, who left LSU and signed with an agent after the season, is certainly hoping to hear his name called in the second round after working out for more than 15 teams in the recent weeks.
Quarterman played 99 games in his three years and in his sophomore and junior seasons he averaged 11.5 points in 2015 and 11.2 points in 2016. The Savannah, Georgia native finished his career 11th all-time in school history with 302 assists. He is one of just 25 LSU players to have recorded 100 steals in their LSU career.
This past year he ranked seventh in the SEC in assist-to-turnover ratio with a 2.3 mark based on 120 assists and 53 turnovers.
Draft coverage begins on ESPN at 6 p.m. CT from the Barclay’s Center and the first pick of the two-round draft will come shortly after 7 p.m. CT. Both rounds will be conducted Tuesday night.