NORTH AUGUSTA, SC — Entering July there was a debate surrounding the No. 1 overall player in the 2015 class.
With one performance at the Nike Peach Jam on Thursday night, 6-foot-9 forward Ben Simmons ended that debate.
The native of Australia scored 21 points (8-for-11 from the field) and added seven assists, four rebounds, three steals and a block as his E1T1 squad knocked off CP3 in a pool play contest.
But the double-digit win in a circus-like atmosphere that included a standing-room only crowd — and featured the opposing team’s NBA superstar namesake sitting on the bench — isn’t what really mattered here. The LSU commit showcased his unique versatility and skill level in the win and Simmons easily would have had a double-double if his teammates consistently knocked in the open layups and three-pointers that he created.
After watching top ten prospects like Jaylen Brown and Diamond Stone play very well earlier in the day at the Under Armour Association Finals in Suwanee, Simmons took their strong efforts and easily trumped it on Thursday night.
There’s just no question that he’s the No. 1 player in the 2015 class.
“In my eyes I’m No. 1 all the time. I’m not going to going to say, ‘this kid’s better than me,’ but in my heart I think I’m the best,” Simmons told NBCSports.com.
Simmons throws crisp passes with both hands, handles the ball incredibly well for a forward and often brings the ball up the floor. He’s a mismatch on nearly every single play. Simmons even calls himself a point forward when he’s asked to label his game and he takes an immense amount of pride in his passing ability.
“That’s how you play the game; that’s how you play the game,” Simmons said of his passing. “You see the Spurs did it, and we won with Patty Mills and Baynes and Australian players, but that’s how you play the game.”
Although E1TI beat CP3 and Class of 2016 five-star forward Harry Giles on Thursday — and the highly-touted head-to-head matchup, was seen by nearly every major head coach and media outlet in the country — Simmons downplayed his individual performance in lieu of team success.
“With this tournament… you’re just trying to win,” Simmons said. “You’re not focused on individuals. I want to be there in the end holding the trophy up.”
That’s what separates Simmons from his peers. It’s not that his peers don’t care about winning as much as Simmons, but they don’t have the versatility to help their team win like the Aussie does.
Jaylen Brown is a power wing with an emerging perimeter skill set, Malik Newman is an undersized scoring guard and post players like Stone, Cheick Diallo and Ivan Rabb all have holes in their games.
But right now, Ben Simmons is the most complete high school basketball player in America and he’s the clear leader in the clubhouse for the No. 1 spot.