By John Davis, Oxford Citizen
There isn’t a player that Ole Miss has faced with the skill level of LSU forward Ben Simmons. That’s the way men’s basketball coach Andy Kennedy sees things at least.
Simmons is clearly the top freshman in the SEC and the nation and he may end up being recognized as the best overall player in all of college basketball. The 6-foot-10, 240-pound Simmons is averaging 20.6 points and 13.1 rebounds per game. The Rebels face the Tigers Wednesday night at Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Kennedy’s Rebels are coming off a come-from-behind win over Georgia. Yante Maten (6-8, 240), had 20 points and nine rebounds against Ole Miss, but Kennedy said there was no comparison between him and Simmons.
“Yante is one of the most improved players in all of college basketball but Ben Simmons is inarguably the best player in all of college basketball,” Kennedy said.
LSU coach Johnny Jones was only asked about Simmons during his time on the SEC teleconference Monday morning. Jones said the unique thing about Simmons was as even as a freshman, he has a tremendous amount of poise on the floor.
“I think his approach has been really, really good for us,” Jones said. “A lot has been said about him in regards to media and what he can and can’t do and I think the good thing for him is that he has been able to stay the course in what is needed for him and staying focused on what is best for him in the way that he plays the game. That’s really what I have been the most impressed with him.”
Jones added that Simmons has been a tremendous teammate in trying to create opportunities for his teammates to get better.
“He has also always tried to play to win, which has been good for us,” Jones said. “It’s amazing at the things he has been able to do. He’s taken more shots in the lane with his right hand. He gets to the free-throw line and he’s shooting with his left and then he’s shooting his jumpers with his left. He’s very capable and very comfortable in being able to do that with both hands.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari also chimed in on what Simmons can do. A week ago, Simmons scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in LSU’s upset of the then No. 9 Wildcats.
“I saw him for the first time in Sacramento, California a few years ago and sat and watched him pass and catch and I said ‘That is the best high school player right there,'” Calipari said. “I said what’s he doing? They said he was going to LSU. I said ‘Is it done already?’ So, he’s that good of a player he is.”