Curious College Case Closed: Enigma Evergrowing

SplashTag’s first ever article was titled The Curious Case of Benjamin Simmons. I was wrong about some things, right about others, but I was clear on one thing – Simmons’ freshman year would be interesting and unique to watch. He has a very different style and basketball background compared to other top prospects. Furthermore, he avoided the blue-bloods of Kentucky and Duke by going to LSU.

So, here we are, heading into the SEC Tournament. Though there is still a shot for the Tigers to make the tournament, it’s clear that those odds are not high. I’m going to avoid talking about this inconsistent and frustrating LSU team.

As the title would suggest, we’ve had a year now to watch Simmons on the college stage. Media members and journalists have questioned the academic issues he’s run into and his lack of aggression/assertiveness. I’m on board with both, but I want to talk more about him as a prospect.

To sum up those issues: Sometimes he seems like he’s picking and choosing his spots, he’s not trying to take over or be dominant, and he’s apparently skipped class a fair bit.

I think he’s a fantastic prospect, but there’s an issue with being the overall #1 pick – you’re deemed as a franchise savior and someone who may take a team to the promised land. Would Anthony Bennett be a bust if he went in the range he was supposed to go in (outside of the top-5)? Simmons has been deemed as a once-in-a-generation prospect, Bill Simmons has said that he could be more transcendent than Kevin Durant, and Magic Johnson’s said that Ben Simmons is the best prospect coming out of the gate since LeBron James. During the year, people weren’t shying from Magic Johnson and LeBron James comparisons.

Hold your horses. I said in my earlier column I saw him as a cross between Lamar Odom with the versatility who had Blake’s athleticism. Simmons doesn’t aggressively post up, shoot, or defend. But to me, there’s one thing that stands out to me as a flaw that makes me at least consider Brandon Ingram as the top pick.

This is something the media hasn’t covered much. Yes they’ve pinpointed questions about his character and laid-back attitude. His approach seems a little like “I’m good, I’m going to the NBA, I’m only here for one year and one year only.” However, what about some of the things he actively says versus how he acts or plays? These are some quotes I picked up on the last few weeks.

On being ineligible for the Wooden Award due to academic reasons, he said that individual accolades didn’t matter and he was only focused on winning.

Okay, if he’s so focused on winning, can somebody explain why he is putting up wonderful numbers on a talented team that’s not exactly winning games? Why does it seem like in some games, he mentally checks out?

When asked about why Tyler Ulis was great, he said it was because “Every time you touch him, it’s a foul.” Furthermore, he said that Ulis wasn’t even the best Point Guard in the SEC, claiming that that title belonged to Stefan Moody.

I get that you can be frustrated and upset after a loss, but that’s straight up unsportsmanlike and disrespectful. He talks about winning and gives off these quotes that suggest that he’s competitive, but do you see that alpha dog or fiery competitor on the court? If he had Tyler Ulis’ heart and grit I’m pretty sure LSU would be in the tournament. The talent is there, but is the “fire” so to speak? I remember having similar concerns when I watched Andrew Wiggins in college, and though he’s had his moments so far, those concerns still exist.

There’s still plenty of enigma. Maybe this was a year where he mentally just thought “I’m going to the NBA so I just need to make sure I can get my numbers and not get in trouble.” I still see him as a potential NBA All-Star. He is young and there’s plenty of room for him to grow – but like I’ve said before, I see him like a Lamar Odom than a LeBron James type of player. And that’s not a knock at all – Lamar Odom had a great NBA career.

So, as we head into the college basketball postseason, question marks still remain about Simmons despite that we’ve see him for a year. Yet, he’ll still probably be the first overall pick in the draft. I didn’t think his year in college could get weirder than my Benjamin Button parallel, but given how this year’s college basketball season has been, I shouldn’t surprised that his season has been more perplexing than a man who ages backwards.


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