Johnny Jones and the Tigers landed as strong of an early commitment as a program can when 2015 five-star forward Ben Simmons (Montverde Academy/E1T1) pledged to LSU in October, shortly after a visit to campus in Baton Rouge.
I had the opportunity to interview Simmons recently, getting the Melbourne, Australia native's take on a wide range of topics - from why he landed on LSU to his adjustment to American life to his relationship with NBA Draft Lottery hopeful and fellow countryman Dante Exum.
It's all below in this first of a two-part Q&A series. Check back tomorrow for the second part, when Simmons goes in-depth on his role as a recruiter for the Tigers and how playing on the Australian national team has molded his game.
Ben Love: How's the rest of your summer look? I know you've been playing EYBL ball, but are you going to make a trip back to Australia?
Ben Simmons: I go back next week. From there I think I'll just be working out and definitely getting back with my weightlifting trainer. And then I'll have the Olympic team stuff, so I'll be doing a lot of practice and training over the summer. So (there'll be) some practice in general for me personally and then I know we have camps for the national team.
BL: What's the experience been like coming to America full-time to play your prep ball over at Montverde Academy?
BS: It's a lot different because you realize that's the one thing you are there to do, study and play. I mean once you get into Montverde Academy, the dorm life is a lot different because you have to adjust to sort of knowing that this is your path, this is what you've picked. You're kinda focusing on just basketball and studying, so you get a little bit homesick for a while because you're used to doing other stuff. But it's good, it's helping me a lot.
BL: You chose to commit to LSU not too long after your visit in October. Why did you pull the trigger then?
BS: It's just one of those feelings that you have when you just know that it's a fit for you. I haven't had any second thoughts ever about it, so that was kinda the main thing. It just felt like it was the right spot for me.
BL: There's been a lot of talk about your relationship with (LSU assistant) David Patrick, your godfather. Can you give me an idea of how close you guys are and how helpful he's been during the recruiting process for you?
BS: I've known him since before he was my godfather. I'm known him my whole life, since I was born. I had no idea that he was going to end up at the college he's coaching at, but it worked out great. He's been there to guide me through whatever it is. He's another person I can look to besides my parents if I need anything or to just talk to him. He's like family.
BL: A nice little Australian theme has been developing lately at LSU. They've had a couple of punters, Brad Wing and Jamie Keehn, and also Darcy Malone, as you know. Is that something that appealed to you?
BS: First, the football thing with the punters, I didn't know until I got there, but then I was like ‘Oh yeah, that's cool.' I could relate to some people, but it wasn't really that about with LSU. It was more about the school and the person, DP, I already knew there and Coach [Johnny] Jones. I felt comfortable with them. Talking with Dante [Exum] encouraged me, too, because I'm good friends with him. Knowing that he's comfortable there was great for me.
BL: I was going to ask you about Dante. Where do you think he'll go now that the draft lottery order is set?
BS: Hopefully Orlando because I'm in Orlando now, and I know if he's down here we'll be hanging out a lot.
BL: Growing up in Australia, what other sports did you play?
BS: I played Australian rules football for a little bit, for a few years. I went and played rugby, too, when I was younger. But once I turned 15 that's when I started playing competitive (basketball) back home. From there on I sorta stuck to it, and now I'm here.