Showtime Documentary, Premiering Tonight, Nov. 4th at 9:00PM, Sheds Light on his Life, Family and College Experience
In the early spring of 2013, I found myself at the National High School Invitational on the campus of Georgetown Prep in Bethesda, Maryland. The tournament, which has since been renamed the Dick’s Sporting Goods High School Nationals and moved to New York’s Madison Square Garden, assembles some of the top squads in the country for a March Madness-style, lose-and-go-home event to determine the supposed prep national champion.
The talent in the gym over the tourney’s three days is enough to make Dick Vitale spontaneously combust.
I couldn’t wait to see Florida’s Montverde Academy squad in action back then because they featured one of the dopest high school backcourts in the country, with senior point guard Kasey Hill and junior combo-guard extraordinaire D’Angelo Russell.
In addition, I wanted to break down the skill set of their massive 6-foot-10 center from Brooklyn who was heading to play at the University of Kentucky that next season, Dakari Johnson.
A few minutes into their first game, a 6-foot-8 lefty came in off the bench. I looked at my roster to put a name to the number on his jersey, and it wasn’t printed in the program.
As soon as he touched the ball, my eyes widened. He received a pass down on the block, turned around to face the basket, and when he put the ball on the floor, I was already in love. He converted a sweet move that was complex in nature, kissing the ball off the glass with a gentle touch over some very big and strong competition. And he made it look easy.
Seated next to me was a Nike rep who I’d seen at numerous elite high school events over the years. I nudged him with my elbow and said, “My goodness! Who is that kid?”
“That’s Ben Simmons,” he told me. “He’s from Australia. Only a sophomore. This is the first game he’s played in America. We’ve been waiting for him to get here for years!” The look of adoration on his face said it all, as did the excitement powering those words.