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.
Dante Exum Doesn’t Think Ben Simmons Enjoyed LSU, Says Kentucky’s Humphries Could Make NBA
NEW YORK — If you watched the “One & Done” documentary on Ben Simmons on Friday night, it seemed pretty clear that the Australian phenom didn’t love his time at LSU.
The 6-foot-10 Simmons claimed not to have any friends on campus, he railed against the NCAA’s exploitation of college players and the Tigers failed to make the NCAA Tournament — or any postseason tournament for that matter.
Count Simmons’ fellow Australian Dante Exum among those who doesn’t think Simmons enjoyed his one-and-done season.
“Yeah, he told me he was glad that he went a year but I don’t believe it,” Exum told me on Sunday afternoon before he went scoreless in 10 minutes as the Utah Jazz beat the Knicks, 114-109, at Madison Square Garden.
In the film, Simmons is seen attending an LSU tailgating event where he’s mobbed by undergrads and middle-aged fans alike who mostly want a piece of him and to take pictures with him.
“I know people who want to try and be my friend because I might be in the NBA, might have a nice contract and be on TV and be famous,” says Simmons. “But I’m not friends with anybody.”
“You don’t normally think about that with somebody on the cover of magazines and on SportsCenter’s Top 10,” Maura Mandt, the documentary’s co-director and an executive producer, told Complex. “That was a very interesting juxtaposition for Ben to not really be able to trust a lot of people.”
Meantime, now that Simmons has a broken foot during his rookie season with the Philadelphia 76ers, Exum has offered him rehab advice. Exum knows all about it, having missed last season with a knee injury.
“I’m really good friends with Ben,” Exum said. “We’ve known each other for a while now. The first thing when I heard that he was injured, you gotta look to the next thing. The next thing is the rehab. When are you going to do the rehab? The timelines and stuff but also to be safe in the rehab that he’s doing so he can come back strong.”
The 6-6 Exum, the No. 5 pick in 2014, says he’s feeling good.
“The knee feels great, I’m not second-guessing it or anything so that’s all you can hope for,” he said.
Simmons has put no timetable on his return but says he’ll be back this season.
“There’s a lot of talk; somebody put that out there,” Simmons told ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk. “But I will come back when I am ready. There is no timetable on getting healthy. I am working every day to get back. As soon as they tell me I can play, I will be out there.”
Exum believes there will be other Australians following himself and Simmons (and Utah’s Joe Ingles) to the NBA.
“Definitely, there have been a lot of Australian players that have come on,” Exum said. “They just never had that opportunity or pathway to college or anything. We’ve got a few kids, one’s at Duke (Jack White), one’s at Kentucky (Isaac Humphries), so we’re starting to get into those bigger programs.”
Humphries is projected as the No. 44 pick in 2018 by DraftExpress.com.
“I’m not too familiar with Jack White but I know Isaac, he’s a great player,” Exum said. “He has great footwork and if he keeps working hard he can be in the league as well.”
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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.