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Aussie Sporting Heroes – Ben Simmons – NBA Basketballer

Born in the Melbourne of Fitzroy on the 20th of July, 1996 to an American father, Dave and an Australian mother, Julie. Australian Basketball prodigy Ben Simmons was always destined for the hard court.

His father is a Melbourne Tigers legend who came to Australia to play in the National Basketball League in 1989 after playing college basketball for Oklahoma City University.

When his parents met in 1991, Julie was a divorced single mother with four children – Melissa, Emily, Liam and Sean. After their marriage in 1994, they added Olivia and Ben to their family.

It was almost inevitable for Simmons to play basketball, he was raised in Newcastle from the age of 18 months, while his father played and coached in the city.

Simmons began playing basketball at the age of seven in the Newcastle Hunters’ under-12 representative team and played two more years for Lake Macquarie and Newcastle.  While in Newcastle, he also played junior rugby league for the Western Suburbs and South Newcastle in the local Newcastle Rugby League competition.

At the age of 10, Simmons returned to Melbourne with his family and began playing junior basketball for the Knox Raiders. Always a talented junior sportsman, he also played Australian rules football at the junior level for the Beverley Hills Junior Football Club where he won a number of team and league best and fairest awards.

In fact, Ben’s sporting life could have turned out completely differently. At the age of 14, Simmons was torn between his love of Australian Rules football and basketball but eventually decided that he would focus on the sport in which his Dad made a career out of. It was to prove a huge decision.

Simmons later revealed it was his football coach’s decision to play him in the position of ruckman that swayed his decision to pursue basketball.

He attended Box Hill Secondary College, a school in Eastern Melbourne known for its sports programs and incredibly at just 15 years of age, he was selected to represent Australia at the FIBA U/17 World Championships in Lithuania. He wasn’t out of his depth either, highlighted by his match against the Czech Republic when he scored 26 points, pulled down 10 rebounds and five steals.

Following on from that tournament the decision, was made to send Ben to the United States to attend Montverde Academy in Montverde, Florida. He played three seasons in Florida and ended the season his final season averaging 28 points, 12 rebounds and four assists.

Several college offers were made to Ben before he ultimately decided to take his expertise to Baton Rouge in Louisiana. He played only one season of college basketball for Louisiana State University (LSU) but that was enough for him to be named a first-team All-American and the National Freshman of the Year.

In the 33 games he played for LSU, his all-round numbers were brilliant, ending the season averaging over 19 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and two steals per game. This led to him being an almost unanimous number one draft pick according to all the leading media outlets in the lead up to the NBA draft.

Then, that came to fruition, after Simmons was selected with the number one overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft by the 76ers, becoming the third Melbourne-born number one overall pick in 11 years behind Andrew Bogut in 2005 and Kyrie Irving in 2011.