Ben Simmons goes for NBA playoff glory

Ben Simmons, the former St Francis Xavier’s Primary School student and local boy made good in the NBA, is preparing to lead his team - the Philadelphia 76ers - to playoff glory as they face off against the Miami Heat in the first round of the 2018 playoffs.

Ben, who was born in Melbourne and raised in Newcastle, has basketball in his blood.

His father, American-born Dave Simmons, played basketball for Oklahoma City University, a team which produced the likes of Blake Griffin (Detroit Pistons), Romero Osby (Orlando Magic) and  Buddy Hield (Sacramento Kings), before playing professionally for Australia’s Melbourne Tigers.

Early days in Newcastle

Ben began playing basketball at the age of seven in the Newcastle Hunters’ under-12 league. He played two consecutive years for Lake Macquarie and Newcastle.

By the age of 10, Ben had left Newcastle to return to Melbourne where he played junior basketball for the Knox Raiders, a club of the Big V which has both a men’s and women’s team.

At the same time as pursuing his love of basketball, Ben also played AFL. He also played junior rugby league while living in Newcastle and soccer for the Beverly Hills Junior Football Club as well. While playing at the junior level, Ben was awarded the league’s best and fairest award for his outstanding performance and sportsmanship.

By the age of 14, it was time for Ben to choose between his two sporting loves - and he decided to make basketball his area of focus. In 2013, Ben made to the move to America where he attended Montverde Academy in Montverde, Florida where he immediately began playing playing basketball for his high school’s team.

While playing for this team, Ben received a National Letter of Intent to play basketball at the college level for Louisiana State University.

University career and NBA draft

While 13 can be unlucky for some, it was on 13 November, 2015 that Ben made a triumphant college basketball debut in which he posted a double-double (11-points and 13-rebounds) in a win against McNeese State University.

This early achievement was the first of many. Ben lead LSU to a 3-0 winning streak in his first three games. In a game against North Florida State University, Ben recorded 43 points in a single game - the most points any LSU Tigers player had put on the board in a single game since the legendary Shaquille O’Neal’s 43 points against Northern Arizona University in 1991.

By January 2016 Ben was being touted as the player to watch. Many heralded him as the best all-around player since LeBron James and Magic Johnson. Later that same year, he was named first-team All-Southern Conference and the league’s Freshman of the Year.

In March of 2016, Ben declared for the 2016 NBA draft, signed with the American sports agency Klutch Sports and withdrew from school.

He went on to be drafted first overall in the first round of the 2016 draft.

Journey to the 2018 NBA playoffs

After injuring his foot in the 76ers’ final training camp of 2016, Ben was ruled out for the entire 2016-17 season - which meant 2017-18 was his rookie year.

On 18 October, 2017 Ben made his NBA debut and posted a double-double (18 points and 10 rebounds) in the season-opener against the Washington Wizards.

In the fourth game of his NBA career, Ben posted his first triple-double (21 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists) in the teams win over the Detroit Pistons. This makes Ben the third rookie in NBA history to post a triple-double within the first four games of his rookie season.

The 76er finished the regular season with 16 straight wins, a winning streak which is the longest in the franchise’s history. It also landed the 76ers the third-seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

In the playoffs, Ben Simmons and the rest of the Philadelphia 76ers face off against the Miami Heat, the team seeded sixth in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

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