LSU basketball signee Ben Simmons led No. 1 Montverde Academy (Fla.) to a 76-57 defeat of Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) Monday at the 2015 Spalding Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Simmons, the No. 1 ranked player in the Class of 2015, scored a game-high 36 points on an efficient 15-for-23 shooting from the field (62.5 percent) and grabbed nine rebounds as Montverde improved to 22-1. He scored 23 points after halftime and was the only player to score in double-figures for the Eagles.
At 6-foot-9, the versatile forward helped the Eagles break away from the Gaels (14-5) in the fourth quarter. He gave the crowd several highlight reel dunks in the final period, however, his play of the game came in the form of a fast break circus shot in the final minutes.
After taking the ball three quarters length of the court, the lefty proceeded up the floor and used his quickness to spin off his defender and free himself up for an off-balance shot with his right hand from the left side of the free three throw lane.
The move drew ‘oohs and aahs’ from many in the crowd, which included the likes of several of college basketball’s top coaches such as John Calipari, Kevin Ollie, Buzz Williams, Paul Hewitt and Tommy Amaker.
Heading into the game, the Gaels thought they would be able to slow down the LSU-bound forward. Bishop Gorman features 7-foot-0 Stephen Zimmerman and 6-foot-11 Chase Jeter, both of whom are two of the elite big men in the Class of 2015. They also have another 6-foot-11 player named Zach Collins.
Obviously, it didn’t pan out the way they had hoped. Simmons was aggressive and in attack mode throughout the entirety of the game. None of the opposing perimeter players could deter him from driving to the rim, while none of the opposing big men could stop him from scoring when he got there.
His combination of size, athleticism, strength and touch around the basket enabled him to score all 15 of his baskets in the paint, whether it was from a drive and adjusting finish over and around Gaels’ bigs, dunks, or putback layups from an offensive rebound. He was 0-for-3 from outside the paint.
Despite his gaudy offensive numbers, there’s still a few things Simmons can improve on moving forward. He can sometimes be lackadaisical with the ball, as he committed seven turnovers in the game. Most of them came off attempts at making plays for his teammates.
Overall, he has good ball handling abilities in the halfcourt and in transition, but if there is one positive thing to take away from his turnovers, it’s the fact that he has great court vision for a player his size. Simply put, the kid isn’t afraid to handle the ball, create offense through his passing and take advantage of potential open passing lanes.
Defensively, he competed hard on that end of the floor as well. Simmons often guarded Jeter, who is one of Bishop Gorman’s top players and a Duke-commit. In addition, he also defended several of the opposing perimeter players from ball-handlers to off-ball shooters, coming up with three steals in the process. Clearly, Simmons is multifaceted in his defensive abilities, which the Gaels found out the hard way.
Monday’s performance was just another to add to an already impressive high school basketball resume. But standout individual performances aren’t what’s driving Simmons to new heights these days. Instead, he’s focusing on improving his game for the next level and pursuing a second consecutive Dick’s High School National Championship.
*Section Photo credit to Montverde.org; Featured Photo (above) credit to Kelly Kline, Getty Images.