Simmons continues Melbourne's proud NBA tradition


There must be something in the water in Melbourne.

On Thursday, the city produced its second - or third if you are inclined to count Kyrie Irving - number one NBA draft pick in 12 years when the Philadelphia 76ers named Box Hill's Ben Simmons as the first pick of the 2016 draft.

The highly-rated 19-year-old prospect follows in the footsteps of Andrew Bogut, who went number one in the 2005 draft when the Milwaukee Bucks picked him and has since won an NBA championship with the Golden State Warriors.

Irving was also born in Melbourne, though he left the city and Australia at a young age before going number one in 2011 to the new champs the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Regardless of whether you count Irving or not, it is a remarkable record for a city so far away from the United States and one that so often loses its best junior players to Australian rules football, serving as another reminder of the emerging trend of Australian-produced NBA stars.

Melbourne and wider Victoria have been particularly prolific.

Simmons joins Bogut and fellow Victorians Dante Exum - drafted at pick five by the Utah Jazz in 2014 - and Matthew Dellavedova - the undrafted, championship-winning Cavs guard - in the NBA.

And Basketball Victoria's basketball operations manager Grant Wallace says the supreme athleticism and strong work ethic of their junior talent gave them a good grounding before they embarked on their U.S. careers.

"I think it's a combination of things. We have great facilities - even if we are always after more - and the quality of coaching is outstanding," he told Omnisport.

"Their work ethic, ability and drive is exceptional. We pride ourselves on giving them good grounding.

"The amount of kids playing at a high level in Victoria is very good. I think we punch above our weight.

"We've got the NBA people here now [for the Basketball Without Borders Asia camp] and they can't believe the talent of some of our kids."

Simmons is the latest Aussie to capture the imagination of the NBA, but he's not the first and is unlikely to be the last.

The new Sixer became the eighth Aussie on an NBA roster when he was drafted and was joined by a ninth when Perth's Thon Maker went to the Bucks at pick 10 as the duo joined Patty Mills (San Antonio Spurs), Aron Baynes, Cameron Bairstow (both Detroit Pistons) and Joe Ingles (Utah Jazz) alongside the aforementioned Victorians already plying their trade in the sport's hallmark competition.

But Wallace admits the production line's continued success depends on their best players sticking with the sport and not switching to Australian rules.

"We are really proud of Ben. It's a great celebration and support for Victorian basketball," he said.

"We've got others on the fringe too, Ryan Broekhoff [who currently plays in Russia with Lokomotiv Kuban] and David Anderson [previously of the Atlanta Hawks, Houston Rockets, Toronto Raptors and New Orleans Pelicans] has played NBA too.

"We are doing really well and it's something we need to be continually celebrating, especially with other sports like AFL taking our kids.

"It's good for the kids playing basketball to see there is something at the end of the rainbow for their hard work."