Ben Simmons (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

Ben Simmons proves he’s No. 1 in 2015 with Thursday night’s performance

Leave a comment

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

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.

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
Leave a comment

Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
Leave a comment

Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.