Ben Simmons hugs his father, Dave, after being announced as the NBA Draft No.1 pick in New York. Picture: Getty ImagesPhiladelphia 76ers make Ben Simmons No.1 draft pick
LONG-TIME Newcastle basketball coach Tim Mallon has hailed Ben Simmons’ ascension to the NBA as a red-letter day for the sport in the Hunter after the pain of losing its NBL club.
Mallon and Simmons’father, Dave, were coaches at the Hunter Pirates when the NBL took away the club’s licence 10 years ago and gave it to the Singapore Slingers.It remains a bitter memory for all involved, but Mallon said Simmons’ starring role in Friday’s NBA Draft was a deserved reward for the family.
“Dave put it on the line for people in Newcastle,and Benny was here watching it all, whatwe went through with the Pirates and the Falcons,” Mallon told theHerald.
Simmons’ riseas the son of “one of Australia’s great imported players who became an Australian citizen, fell in love with Australia” wasanother chapter in the “greatstory” of basketball in Australia and Newcastle.
Mallon, who coaches at Hunter Sports High and with the Australian under-19s, said Simmons had the talent to meet the expectations of being the No.1 draft choice.
“He’s a prodigious talent, and the NBA do their research pretty well,” Mallon said.“That is an extraordinarily competitive league with some of the most amazing athletes in the world.To be picked number one, to have the blue sash draped over his shoulders, is really quite remarkable.
“Ben’s in lots of ways the perfect storm.You’ve got this kid who was very much interested in basketball but played a bit of rugby league, a bit of Aussie rules and, then, combined with that, he’s inherited his dad’s physical attributes,an amazingly powerful, strong athlete, then with these amazing values in basketball, selfless, tough, and then into all this concentrates this skill and knowledge of the game, because he’s grown up around the sport, watching his father in the national league, watching his father coach and play, and it’s all percolating, isn’t it. It’s all coming together.
“And then he grows exponentially, becomes six-foot-ten. Then throw into that his left-handedness, throw into that his dad’sgrowing up in the Bronx in New York and his toughness. Throw into that his time in Australian sport. You’ve got this perfect storm, this concentrate of someone who is very unique.
“Now he has an opportunity to go and test himself against the very best.”
Mallon praised Simmons senior for developing his son’s basketball intelligence.
“Dave was smart in encouraging himto develop a game that was sort of unusual for a big man, that he would play with the ball in his hands, that he would make assists, that he could dribble it and create plays. He could play like a big point guard.
“What you’ve got is a kid that’s playing a bit differently, and that’s going to bring something different to the game, which I think is really interesting for him, combined with those lovely values that lots of Australian sports people will recognise and that his dad had in bucketloads.
“I’m sure he’ll help Ben take the right attitude into his career.”
Mallon said Australia’s presence in theNBA was growing, but Simmons was potentially the country’smostinfluential export.
“We’ve got lots of players in the NBA.Bogut is probably the most prominent because of his starting role, but he is a role player.
“Ben’s the first one who looks like he’s the spearhead, which is a nice progression.
“To me it all fits in with part of a bigger story about the development of the game.”
Mallon said Simmons’ selflessness was a sign of greatness.
“I noticed the other day that LeBron James gave the ball up; he didn’t take the winning shot. That says a lot for him.
“The great players know that that’s what it takes. Ben finds a way to contribute. He has such an impact on the game in such a variety of ways. I think the fact he’s not one-dimensional is a great strength.”