Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
By JACK LeGWINMONTVERDE, Fla.- Montverde Academy coach Kevin Boyle has coached Kyrie Irving, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Al Harrington and many other elite players.
And Boyle says that his current star, 6-foot-10, LSU-bound forward Ben Simmons — the projected No. 2 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft by DraftExpress.com — is special.
“Ben is an incredibly gifted athlete,” Boyle told SNY.tv. “His jump shot is getting better, he’s an excellent passer. Hopefully, he can have as much of an impact in high school this year as LeBron did as a senior. Not saying he’s as good as LeBron, but I’m hoping he has as much of an impact. As a physical force with skill, he is probably the closest to him, than anyone since LeBron has played.”
After a 71-point weekend and wins over Berkmar (Ga.) and defending state-champion Jonesboro (Ga.), Simmons has made a strong case as the No. 1 player in the nation.
In his final year in high school, the Australian native leads the No. 1-ranked team in the nation on a brutal schedule that includes Bishop O’Dowd (CA), Plano West (TX), Bishop Gorman (NV), Roselle (N.J.) Catholic, St. Benedict’s (N.J.), Whitney Young (IL), Paul VI (VA) and many others.
“So far it’s good,” Simmons told SNY.tv after his 37-point performance in a win over Jonesboro. “Adjusting to a new team, I’m playing a bit more point forward, so I have to be more of a leader on the court which is what I’m trying to do. But so far, these two games have been good.”
Boyle acknowledges that while Simmons is a physical specimen with talent that excedes 99 percent of the players he will play during the season, he still has things to work on.
“I think he has terrific upside,” Boyle said. “He has to continue to improve his jump shot, which he has been doing, because he’s not going to get everything around the basket in college or in the pros. If that keeps developing, that will help him to become a star level player in the NBA.”
When asked about the improvement of his jump shot, Simmons says that it has gotten better, but the first couple games haven’t lent themselves to taking many jump shots.
“Yeah, I have been, but you haven’t seen it much,” Simmons said. “I’m just taking what they give me. But when they stop giving me that, I’ll be taking some more jump shots.”
During the summer for Each 1 Teach 1 Elite on the EYBL Circuit, Simmons brought the ball up the floor, distributing to guards Antonio Blakeney, Barry Brown and Keyshawn Evans. Simmons says that his ability to bring the ball up the floor can pay big dividends at LSU.
“Definitely can be effective,” Simmons said. “Once you get into college and you’re playing in the SEC, a lot of guys my size aren’t able to guard someone who’s quicker and can dribble. It changes the defense a lot.”
Simmons is also recruiting on LSU’s behalf, trying to get Blakeney and IMG Academy guard JaQuan Lyle to come to LSU after their recent visit.
“They’re great players, they’d be a good fit,” he recently said on ESPNU. “But they’re going to have their own decisions and personal preferences for schools, but I think it would be a good look for LSU.”
Video- Ryan Currie/ Home Team Hoops
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.