EXCITING: Ben Simmons.
FORMER Newcastle Hunters junior Ben Simmons still has a lot to learn but has the potential to be a ‘‘special player’’, according to the man who gave him his Australian debut a month after his 17th birthday.
Boomers head coach Andrej Lemanis thrust Simmons on to the international stage in Australia’s two-game sweep of the Tall Blacks in August, and the 208-centimetre man-child held his own.
‘‘Obviously Ben is an exciting young talent coming through. He has an athleticism that we haven’t seen that much of in this part of the world, and I think that gives him an opportunity to be a special player,’’ Lemanis said.
‘‘Already you can see a confidence and an ability there, and the ability to make some plays that put him amongst the elite, particularly in his own age group.’’
Simmons was born in Melbourne, moved to Newcastle at the age of 18 months, learned to play basketball at Broadmeadow, and represented the Hunters and Lake Macquarie for three seasons of under 12s before returning to Melbourne as a 10-year-old.
The son of former Hunter Pirates coach Dave Simmons is in his final year of high school at Montverde Academy in Florida and will continue his education at Louisiana State University – the alma mater of Shaquille O’Neal – next year.
Though Gloucester-born Perth Wildcats co-captain Damian Martin is this region’s last home-grown Boomers representative, the Hunters claim Simmons as one of their own.
‘‘By his own admission, he still has a lot of learning to do, and he needs to continue to work on his perimeter game and his outside shot, and his ability to knock that down consistently,’’ Lemanis said.
‘‘He needs to deal with some things defensively and the physicality of the game as you get older and you start competing against men.
‘‘Having to negotiate screens, all those sorts of things, so it will be a good learning process for him to go through at this age, and as he continues to mature and grow, obviously he will be better equipped physically to deal with those things.
‘‘But I really enjoyed having him on the group, he’s an exciting talent, and I think he’s someone who, as he continues to develop, will feature prominently in Australian basketball.’’