Widely lauded as being the next big thing in world basketball, Ben Simmons has also been labelled as being too unselfish, with some questioning his ability to be the 'go-to' scorer for his team. While his perimeter game remains a work in progress, never let it be said again that he cannot be 'the man' for any team he plays for.
The Simmons 5-by-5 that nearly happened
Ben Simmons dominated North Florida in LSU's 119-108 win. Using his strength and athleticism, he manhandled the Ospreys, pouring in a huge 43 points on a super-efficient 15/20 shooting and 13/15 from the line - all 15 of his field goals scored in the paint. So comprehensive was Simmon's influence on the game, he also pulled down 14 rebounds, dished out 7 assists, collected 5 steals and swatted 3 shots. He was just 2 blocks away from a rare five-by-five and 3 assists shy of a triple-trouble.
When was the last time a point guard who happens to be averaging 6 assists, also leads in rebounding with 14.9 per game? When you throw in 19.9 points, 2.4 steals and 1.6 blocks a game, we are definitely talking about someone who is very special.
Against North Florida, Simmons delivered when it mattered the most. Trailing by 8 points at half time, the dynamic Simmons took over the game, helping LSU take back the lead and ultimately win the game.
"I'm tired of losing."
After dropping just 1 game with Montverde in 3 years, Simmons experienced three straight losses with LSU. As he stated after the game, he was ready to win.
"I just wanted everyone to get energy and try to play as a team. The three losses fueled the fire a little bit. I definitely felt like they couldn't stop me in the post. My teammates built my confidence by throwing me the ball. Once I had it, I knew where I was going."
Putting the numbers into perspective
ESPN reported that the 6'10 Australian is the only major-conference player in the past 20 years to post a 40 point, 10 rebound, 5 assist and 5 steal line. Furthermore, he is the only freshman in the past 20 years to deliver at least 35 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists in a game.
In posting 43 points, Simmons also joined elite Tiger alumni and NBA legends Pete Maravich and Shaquille O'Neal, who performed the feat back in 1991.
In trawling through NCAA records, Ben Simmons joins Anatoly Kolesnikov (then known as Anatoly Bose) and Alex Loughton as Australia's* representatives in posting 40 or more points in NCAA Division I men's competition.
Back in January 2010, Kolesnikov racked up a career-high 46 points in Nicholls State's 98-99 loss to Northwestern State in double overtime. Kolesnikov went 11/21 from the field (5/10 3PT, 19/24 FT) while also collecting 14 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 3 turnovers in 50 minutes. Kolesnikov would back up with a second game of 40 points on 15/23 shooting (5/11 3PT, 5/7 FT) with 4 rebounds, 1 steal and 4 turnovers in 38 minutes as the Colonels lost to Sam Houston State 57-62 in March 2010. As far as I could find, Kolesnikov's 46 point effort remains the best by an Australian at this level.
The only other Australian to record a 40 point game is Alex Loughton who managed the feat with Old Dominion as a sophomore in 2003. He piled on 45 points with 15 rebounds in a 102-105 double overtime loss to Charlotte. His Australian record was eclipsed by Kolesnikov who was a standout player on a relatively weak team.
Behind Bose and Simmons, Eastern Washington's Venky Jois posted back-to-back 38 point games last season. Patty Mills is just behind with a 37 point explosion as a freshman for Saint Mary's, while Boise State's Anthony Drmic has posted 34 points twice so far in his career. Former number 1 NBA Draft pick Andrew Bogut's best was 33 points during his final year at Utah.
Simmons has elevated his game to a new level and amazingly he is only 6 games into his freshman season. He is already a special player, but one still feels that the best is still to come.
*Anatoly Kolesnikov is now playing for BC Astana as a Kazakhstan national