The Ben Simmons experience for LSU basketball in 2015-16 projects to be one helluva ride, even if the standout freshman was forced to miss the team's opening practice on Monday with an ankle injury.
According to Charlie Leonard, who's entering his fourth season on head coach Johnny Jones' staff in Baton Rouge, it's not only a minor injury for the native Aussie, but Simmons is also on the back side of dealing with the situation.
"He's not dead, trust me," Leonard said facetiously to TSD's Ben Love Monday on "Bumper to Bumper Sports" on 103.7 FM (KLWB) in Lafayette.
"No, I was laughing because when I came out I got a phone call that said 'I heard he missed practice today.' I said 'Well yeah, he's finishing up the back end of an ankle injury.' No big deal. That's what it is. They all get bumps or bruises at some time or the other. He could've gone today if it was necessary."
Leonard went on to describe just why people are going to fall in love with the game of Simmons, a versatile 6-foot-10 forward, as well as the kid off the court.
"The basketball IQ, people will see it evident immediately. People are going to sometimes get frustrated with him maybe being too unselfish," explained Leonard. "His ability to handle the notoriety and exposure is the thing I've been most proud of him for over anything else. It takes a different kind of kid to handle everybody telling you how wonderful you are 24/7. He had to handle it before he got here, but this is another level. We've literally been halfway around the world. When he could've gone crazy or there could've been a hiccup, there hasn't been one. It shows a level of maturity and preparation, particularly that his parents have done in bringing him along this far."
And, wouldn't you know it, Charlie Leonard sees the comparison between Leonard Fournette, currently assaulting SEC rushing record books for LSU, and Simmons ... at least off their respective playing surfaces.
"If Ben doesn't have to average 200 yards a game, he's all right," said Leonard. "I casually know Leonard (Fournette) a little bit, seeing him at a couple of circumstances off the field. You kinda sit back and say I'm curious to see how he's going to handle it. He's handled it very well, and Ben's been very similar. When you get kids like that, sometimes they're a handful or their people are a handful. Fortunately that's not been the case in either one of those two kids."
With Simmons expected to return shortly from the ankle injury, LSU hoops is looking to take another step forward from the early leg-up it got down under in August. Even without Simmons on Monday, the first of 30 team practices over the next 42 days, Leonard confirmed it was a solid opening go.
"The first day's always fun," Leonard said. "We managed to sustain effort going for about a couple of hours and met beforehand. It was a pretty good workout. I was real pleased with the energy level more than anything else."
The Tigers open the season on Nov. 13 versus McNeese State following a home exhibition Nov. 6 against Southwest Baptist.