Simmons honed interview skills on video game

Ben Simmons, a remarkably cool customer coming into LSU basketball as a super-signee, learned how to deal with the media through a video game.

There is no shortage of resources at LSU to assist student-athletes in effectively communicating with reporters, including a veteran media guru in Dr. Tommy Karam, whose work with Tiger players dates back to Shaq.

While standout signee Ben Simmons will gladly sponge from Karam and others what he can, it's a virtual reality that has the 6-foot-10 native Australian comfortable in his question-answering skin.

"I like to play video games, PlayStation," Simmons told TSD Wednesday during his maiden voyage with the local media contingent. "I don't really have too much time for activities, so I try to watch TV and just rest my body."

But, as is standard operating procedure for an achiever of Simmons' ilk, he's even managed to do something meaningful through the years while doing something most kids toy around with when they're "doing nothing."

"Yeah, 2K," recalled Simmons with a laugh on how he blossomed as an interview subject. "So after the game you have the little interview thing, and you have to pick one of the options. That kinda gives you a good idea about what you're about to say.

"But I've always watched interviews of NBA players after games and stuff like that. So for me it's just about watching something and learning from it."

The game Simmons is referencing is NBA 2K, produced by developers Visual Concepts and published by 2K Sports since 2005 (Sega from 1999-2004).

And it served not only as a Q&A mentor for the wildly talented Simmons, but also as a release for a kid who by and large prefers to keep to himself when there's a brief respite in practices, games and appearances.

"The thing people don't know about Ben is he's extremely quiet," assistant coach David Patrick, Simmons' godfather, told TSD in February. "Some of those clips when he's playing, he's looking at cameras and jumping up and down and he's pretty vocal. Off the floor he's a very, very quiet kid. I think that's one of the reasons we got him in the recruiting process because Ben's not going to spend a lot of time on the phone with you if he doesn't know you.

"Like a lot of these kids these days, he's a video game freak. He stays on them 24-7. Ben actually used to practice doing his interviews on 2K15 or 2K12, whatever those NBA games are called. As a kid he'd practice doing his interviews on there.

"It's crazy to see him now being able to do those interviews as a college player and hopefully he'll be doing them as a pro in the next few years."

There's nothing formulaic about Simmons' games. In the blink of an eye he can shift from acrobatic ball-handler to physical rebounder.

But when it comes to looking into the bright lights and cameras, Simmons does have a pattern, one forged through repetition that's given him a calmness betraying his age and freshman status.

Take note, parents: He has a video game to thank for that.

Click on the link below for TSD's full interview Wednesday with Simmons, one that first aired on "Bumper to Bumper Sports" on 103.7 FM (KLWB) in Lafayette.

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