Australian NBA star, Ben Simmons, hosted a basketball camp in his hometown of Melbourne on Sunday. The 2018 Rookie of the Year ran the camp at the State Basketball Centre in Wantirna South, the home court of his former junior team, the Knox Raiders. The camp attracted young kids from near and far, some coming from as far as the Gold Coast.
After a busy year playing in the NBA, returning to the place where it all began to hold his own basketball camp was a surreal experience for Simmons. “It’s amazing. Unfortunately this [facility] was not built when I was here, it’s an amazing facility they have here. I’m grateful to be able to throw a camp like this every year. It continues to grow; 700 kids on the waiting list and 400 kids here… I’ve had a great time so far.”
The last 12 months have been an intense and demanding period for the 22 year old Simmons. The Australian phenom’s first season saw him lead the recently dysfunctional Philadelphia 76ers to their first playoff appearance since 2012.
Returning to his hometown, the camp was a chance for Simmons to get away from the chaos of the NBA and inspire the next generation of talented Australian basketball players at a local level. “I have a great opportunity now to be able to give back to the kids here, and to Australian basketball… [To] just be a good role model to them, and just [be] someone they can look up to and lean on every time I come back and run the camp.”
The kids at the camp were lucky enough to get some NBA-tested advice from Simmons. “[I’ve] just been going around [to] each little section and just giving them my little advice, running some drills and just having some fun.” A few dunks from the man himself also added to experience of the attendees. An audible gasp could be heard from his young fans as he slammed the ball through the rim.
Young fans got to hold court with their idol today, as Box Hill's @NBA superstar @BenSimmons25 ran a special training camp at the State Basketball Centre. @alexkeefe9 #9News pic.twitter.com/6DdPz1UzUK
— Nine News Melbourne (@9NewsMelb) August 19, 2018
Simmons will fly back to the USA soon to begin preparations with the Philadelphia 76ers for the upcoming NBA season.
Part of those preseason preparations will include a match against Melbourne United, on September 29 in Philadelphia. The game will have extra significance for the young 76er, as his father, Dave Simmons, played for Melbourne United back when they were known as the Melbourne Tigers. “[It’s] going to be a lot of fun,” said Simmons on playing United. “Especially because I know it’s a good team. I know my teammates are probably looking at it like ‘we’re in the NBA, no one can compete with us’, but I know they’re going to give us a good game.”
It’s clear that growing and supporting the sport of basketball is something close to Simmons’ heart. This year was his second basketball camp in Melbourne, and he’s keen to increase the event’s growth. “Every year I want to make sure it gets bigger and reaches more Australian kids. So I definitely want to start spreading the camp out to NSW, Queensland, Perth, and just keep building.”
Simmons will commence his second NBA season on October 16 in a match against Eastern Conference rival, the Boston Celtics. His young fans from his home base of Melbourne will certainly be watching closely.