Freshman phenom Ben Simmons dazzles in second collegiate game

Australian freshman phenom Ben Simmons has made LSU appointment television this season. He’s a 6-9 point forward who can run in transition, pick out teammates for easy baskets, or finish emphatically around the rim. Once the NBA Draft rolls around in June, it wouldn’t be crazy to see his name be called first as he’s currently the No. 2 overall player on the CBS Sports preseason NBA Draft big board.

He’s that good.

He showed off his complete array of skills on Monday night against Kennesaw State on his way to 22 points, nine rebounds, six assists, four steals and zero turnovers as the Tigers beat the Owls 91-69. And yeah, it was Kennesaw State. Let’s not go crazy with the evaluations here. But there was a lot to like from what we saw tonight from the future pro.

Let’s start with this ridiculous play in transition, where he shows off his ball-handling, balance, and speed when handling the ball.

A behind-the-back dribble at full speed followed by a crossover into a perfect half-looking bounce-pass to a teammate? That’s swoon-worthy.

How about this play in space?

So he blocks a shot at the 3-point line, keeps it in play, takes the pass, then throws up a perfect alley-oop to his teammate? There are very few guys at 6-9 who can do that.

A quick little poke away steal followed by a thunderous jam? Yeah, he’s got that in his arsenal too.

One thing you’ll notice is that a lot of these absurd plays are happening out in space and in transition. That’s where he excels at this point in his career. Of his 22 points tonight, 14 came within the first 10 seconds of the possession. In the Tigers first game against McNeese State it was four of his 11 points.

It’s not that he’s necessarily bad in half-court play, it’s just that due to his inefficient jumper he can sometimes become a bit invisible beyond crashing the glass and cutting. The keys for him the rest of the season will be two-fold. First, he needs to work on that jumper so he can become a bit more of a threat with the ball in his hands as a creator. Second, he needs to develop counter-moves for when guys take away his first option handling the ball. Particularly, I’d say that working on changing speeds would be a good place for him to start. If he can start to effectively change speeds, it could keep the defense on their heels long enough to open up further passing lanes or give him an extra split second for his shot.

For his NBA prospects, those are legitimate nits to pick with his game. But when talking about his collegiate prospects, it’s a superfluous discussion. Simmons will continue to be monstrous on this level as his rare combination of balance, fluidity and sheer explosiveness will overpower competition even once he gets pat Atlantic Sun foes and into SEC play.

Ben Simmons had a day against Kennesaw State. (USATSI)
Ben Simmons had a day against Kennesaw State. (USATSI)

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