Simmons always had superior game sense and work ethic, says junior coach


Grant Wallace might not have realised he was looking at a number one NBA Draft pick when he watched Ben Simmons compete at the Australian national championships as an Under-16 Victorian, but he knew he was looking at something special.

Simmons was the first overall pick at the 2016 NBA Draft when he was - as expected - taken by the Philadelphia 76ers.

Wallace, Basketball Victoria's  basketball operations manager, was involved in the Under-20 Victorian team at the same national championships Simmons played at in the under-16 team, and says everyone involved in Victorian basketball knew they were dealing with an incredible talent - even in a group of exceptionally athletic players.

"He always had that potential," Wallace told Omnisport.

"That state team also had [Melbourne Football Club Australian rules player] Christian Petracca, so it was an exceptional sporting group of kids.

"But with his background, with his dad [Dave Simmons, a former Melbourne Tigers star] being such an unbelievable player too, he just had that game sense.

"The game came easy to him ... but he was also very competitive and he had a great skill set for such a tall body.

"But that game sense set him apart, combined with his drive. like [Cleveland Cavalier] Matthew Dellavedova, their work ethic is exceptional, their ability and drive is incredible.

"Ben was six-foot, seven in year nine, so he was always going to be something special, but this is probably at the high end of what we expected."

And there is more good news for 76ers fans according to Wallace, who says Simmons has always been a solid on-court leader.

Those characteristics will be particularly important in Philadelphia, where coach Brett Brown will be looking to Simmons to lead his young roster forward, though Wallace predicts it might be a year or two before we see the best of the 19-year-old in the NBA

"He was very much a leader on the floor. Just competitive and his ability to rebound or score when they needed him to," he added.

"He's always had good coaching and mentoring. The school at Box Hill Secondary Senior College was fantastic to him at that time as well.

"l think it's very similar to Dante [Exum], another Vic that went early [to the Utah Jazz in the 2014 NBA Draft], we'll see the best of him in two or three years' time when he's able to get his body in NBA condition and learned to play 80 games a season.

"I think if they're after instant success with Ben, they're building something really specially at Philadelphia under Brett, so long-term success is what he's after and sustained long-term success and I think Ben can help him achieve that."