Rising Stars in US High School: Simmons and Maker shine

Some of the rising stars in Australian basketball have been putting their stamp on the High School basketball scene in the US. They’re not only impressing people back home in Australia, but they’ve also garnering the attention of some high profile college basketball programs. It is worth taking a quick look back to see how Ben Simmons, Thon Maker, Jonah Bolden and Keanu Pinder fared.

Ben SIMMONS (2015) | Montverde Academy (14-0)

Montverde hasn’t had much time to rest over this festive period, competing in 3 tournaments in just 3 weeks, including the City of Palms Tournament, the Wild Wing Café Hoops Classic and the Cancer Research Classic. Simmons was the star across all three events.

City of Palms Tournament

18ppg | 11.8rpg | 2bpg | 62%FG Tournament MVP

Simmons’ debut in this storied tournament was extremely impressive, going for 31 points and 13 rebounds combined across two games, and it was only up hill from there. Montverde went undefeated in the tournament, ultimately defeating Paul VI in the final. Simmons' impressive tournament helped him earn tournament MVP honors.

Wild Wing Café Hoops Classic

19ppg | 6rpg Tournament MVP

Simmons had yet another impressive start to a tournament, this time putting up 28 points and 6 rebounds against South Atlanta to open the Wild Wing Café Hoops Classic. Montverde had 3 blowout wins in the tournament, including an 83-60 victory over Northside Christian in the Grand Final. Simmons once again received MVP honors.

Cancer Research Classic

12pts | 9reb | 5stl | 3blk Tournament MVP

Montverde’s game against St Benedict’s on day 1 of the Cancer Research Classic was cancelled due to a no show from their opposition; their sole game was against Wheeler in day 2 of the competition. After a slow first half, Simmons led an inspired run in the second to get the 74-46 win. Simmons was also awarded MVP for his stat-stuffing performance.


Ben Simmons is doing special things at Montverde Academy in Florida. He’s captained the squad throughout their 14-0 start and is also the leading scorer. Although the squad boasts mostly Divison-1 level players, Simmons still manages to stand out from the pack, he’s currently the #4 player for the Class of 2015 but he’s slowly moving up the ranks after some great showings over the past few weeks.

After receiving interest from the likes of North Carolina, Kansas and Duke, Simmons decided to go with family ties and attend Louisiana State University (LSU). Simons’ godfather is LSU assistant coach David Patrick so the recruitment went through him; Simmons is a great pickup for an LSU Program that hasn’t competed in quite a while.

Thon MAKER (2016) | Carlisle (13-4)

Carlisle High School in Virginia is home to Aussie phenom Thon Maker. The 7-foot youngster from Sydney has been over in the United States for a couple of years now and is considered the #1 player for the class of 2016. Carlisle has also had an extremely busy December, participating in 2 high-profile tournaments and Maker performed well in both.

Chick-Fil-A Classic

19ppg | 11.5rpg | 2bpg

The 2013 Chick Fil-A-Classic was filled with a number of the top teams in the nation; Wesleyan Christian Academy (Harry Giles), Oak Hill Academy (BJ Stith) and Arlington (Brandone Francis) were just some of the big programs on show at the South Carolina Tournament. Although Maker continued to show why he’s the #1 player in the nation for 2016, his team was unable to capitalize on his big performances. Carlisle lost their first 2 games before earning a solid win over Spring Valley in their final game.

HighSchoolOT.com Invitational

25.3ppg | 12.6rpg | 3bpg Summit Hospitality Bracket Tournament MVP

Maker entered this tournament knowing that he would have some tough matchups. He consistently managed to drop huge numbers on the likes of Goodluck Okonoboh, Max Hoetzel and even outplayed fellow 2016 prospect, point guard Dennis Smith Jr. At the end of the day, Maker was just too big for his opponents, leading Carlisle to the HighSchoolOT.com Summit Hospitality Bracket Tournament Championship game where they defeated Trinity Christian 72-66. Maker was awarded MVP after his 34 point and 9 rebound championship game performance.

Maker has been in the United States for quite some time now so it’s still unknown whether he’ll commit to the Australian national basketball program. At only 16 years old, Maker already has offers from a number of colleges including; Arizona, Georgetown, Virginia, Virginia Tech, LSU and more recently NC State. He’s also beginning to garner interest from the likes of Duke, Kansas and Kentucky. Carlisle will be preparing to start 2014 with a bang at the Chance Harman Classic.

Jonah BOLDEN (2014) | Findlay Prep (16-3) / Brewster Academy

Bolden is relatively new to the US High School basketball scene, only moving over to the United States in 2013, but he’s been a big contributor to the already stacked Findlay Prep Pilots. Coming off the bench, Bolden was averaging a solid 11 points and 3.1 assists per game as Findlay crusied to a 13-0 start to the season.

In the beginning of November it became known to the public that Bolden’s high school clock had finished. After sitting out Findlay’s game against Future Prep (Findlay’s first loss of the season), questions began to circulate regarding his eligibility and the news was soon released; Bolden’s high school clock had run out at Findlay and he’ll subsequently be transferring to Brewster Academy in Boston.

Bolden made good use of his time at Findlay Prep; the team went 13-0 in his time there and he managed to place himself at #70 on the 2014 ESPN 100. Bolden also picked up an offer from UCLA, an offer he accepted at the conclusion of his official visit. Bolden will continue to impress on the court at hoops powerhouse Brewster Academy before finishing his diploma and packing his bags for the Bruins.

Keanu PINDER (2014) | Sunrise Christian Academy (6-3)

6’8 forward Keanu Pinder has shown to be a valuable asset for Sunrise Christian Academy thus far this season, with his length and athleticism complementing Sunrise’s style of play, widely touted as being one of the fastest running squads in the nation. Pinder took ppart in one tournament over recent weeks, the City of Palms - Signature Series.

City of Palms – Signature Series

1ppg | 1rpg

Sunrise Christian entered the Signature Series, a 4-team event that was run in the latter end of the competition. Sunrise opened up with a win over East London Barking Abbey (UK) and earned the Signature Series Championship the next game with a win over Brewster Academy. Pinder didn’t collect any mind-blowing statistics in this tournament, but he was a force off the bench and provided much needed energy and hustle.

Pinder accepted an offer from the University of Nebraska in October and will be a great asset to a program ready to rebuild. Nebraska is spending upwards of US$300 million on their basketball program over the next couple of years so there’s no doubt that was a selling point in acquiring the athletic Pinder.

The success of Australian’s playing high school basketball in the US is promising, and it show’s the rising standard and quality of athletes coming from down under. Word is that there are some top Aussie Prospects being looked at by high schools in the US for potential transfers. Stay tuned for any news regarding those players and where they may end up.