Basketball in New York City in the Eighties had come of age. The Knicks, with two championships in the early 70’s, had turned the city’s burgeoning love for the sport into a full-blown passion: the fire burned from Red Hook to Jamaica, from Battery Park to Van Cortlandt Park.
When you played pickup ball, you had to win or sit out for maybe 3 or 4 games at a time. Most players were punished every time they drove to the hoop - if they weren’t strong enough
The city courts that created the physical, skilled modern game blossomed: Rucker, West Fourth, Dyckman. Madison Square Garden enshrined itself as the sacred court of basketball. The NBA had chosen Olympic Tower on Fifth Avenue as its headquarters since the 70’s, where it still stands. Basketball was in the blood of the city.
Uptown, a young Dave Simmons graduated South Bronx High School. He started playing late, at age 15, but made up for his lack of experience with hard work, determination and a tough physical presence. His love of the game would open up doors to a professional career in South America and eventually Australia.
It was also now that Dave met Julie. Before long, Ben’s sister Olivia was born, and, on the 20th of July 1996, right in the middle of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, Benjamin David Simmons entered the world in the Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy.
Ben may have been born in Melbourne but definitely has that Bronx toughness and competitiveness in his DNA - he hates losing.
Newcastle & Canberra
In 1997, the family moved north, to Newcastle, where Dave played for the Newcastle Falcons. Ben spent his early childhood in the east coast city, before the family briefly relocated to Australia's capital, Canberra, when Dave played with the Canberra Cannons. After two seasons there, the family returned to Newcastle, where Ben stood out in basketball, making the Newcastle Hunters’ representative under-12 side at the age of just seven, and playing for local rugby league clubs Western Suburbs and South Newcastle.
As the youngest in a large family, Ben always had his older siblings to play with and it wasn’t long before he learned how to catch and throw a basketball with ease.
Ultimately, his love for basketball won out, and at 15, Ben made his first appearance in the United States at the invite-only Pangos All-American Camp for basketball prospects, which hosts the top 150 high-school basketball prospects in the world. It was there he recognised the need to be playing against the best, and knew his future would be in the US.
Coming to America
After the Pangos camp, Ben and the family considered the options to complete his high school basketball in the US, deciding to join coach Kevin Boyle at Monteverde Academy. This environment would provide intense training and top national competition, and, with Ben, Monteverde would win three straight National Championships (2013, 2014 & 2015).
One and Done
Ben received offers from multiple major colleges, ultimately committing to Louisiana State University, where his godfather David Patrick was assistant coach. LSU’s last great product got excited.
Through the 2015-2016 college season Ben played 33 games, averaging 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists. His play made other people take notice…
Ben declared for the 2016 NBA Draft on 21 March 2016, the top freshman in the country. He signed with agent Rich Paul, of Klutch Sports Group, and based himself out of Cleveland, Ohio for his pre-draft process.
The 2016 NBA Draft
The sixers fans where pretty excited.
So were the family.
Ben packed his bags and headed to the City of Brotherly Love.
‘‘It felt like I was playing 2K, honestly. Just looking at Joel Embiid out there with the lights on his jersey. I was like, 'man, I'm actually here.'
And it tuned out, he wasn't far wrong about the 2K thing either.
From where I am now to a year ago, I would have thought I knew so much more a year ago, and now looking back, I really didn’t know anything... [now] I know how to handle my business.
Ben had arrived.