Longley: No right answer for Simmons as top draft prospect considers Olympics


Australia assistant coach and former Chicago Bulls star Luc Longley understands Ben Simmons' Olympic Games dilemma but hopes the top NBA Draft prospect boards the plan to Rio de Janeiro.

Simmons was included in the Boomers' extended 26-man squad on Monday, but the 19-year-old LSU star is no guarantee to feature at the Games in August.

The Melbourne-born forward - who is averaging 19.6 points, 11.9 rebounds and 5.0 assists in college this season and could sign a shoe deal worth more than $100million - is widely tipped to be the number one pick in June's draft, two months out from the Olympics.

It remains to be seen whether Simmons' future NBA team would allow their star recruit to risk injury ahead of his debut season in the league.

But regardless of what Simmons decides to do, he has Longley's backing, though the three-time NBA champion - who was the first Australian to play in the league - believes Rio would provide the youngster with an invaluable experience.

"If there's anybody that can be sympathetic to some of the decisions Ben's going to have to make, it's me," Longley told NBA Australia.

"The first time an Australian had to choose between NBA commitments and playing for his country was when I chose not to go to [Atlanta in 1996], with the strong encouragement from the Chicago Bulls.

"It was different circumstances, in favour of having a surgical procedure on my ankle, which I needed to play the next year. I was probably at my best at that point in my career, and we had a legitimate medal chance, and that friction between playing for your country and being paid millions of dollars and having to honour those obligations is a bear.

"It was probably one of the hardest decisions in my life and there's no right answer, because whichever decision you make, there's fallout in the opposite direction."

Longley added: "I think if Ben came to Rio, it'd be fantastic for him on a bunch of levels.

"Being around the older guys who've played the game a lot would be fantastic. Consolidating his basketball persona on the Olympic stage would be fantastic.

"Any experience you get playing basketball in a different environment [is beneficial]. The Olympics is a one-off kind of environment; it's hard to simulate that. He would grow as a player by coming to the Olympics, there's no question about it."