The hype preceded Ben Simmons to LSU, and he has lived up to it. Going into the game against number one ranked Oklahoma, Simmons had 14 straight double doubles. For those of us not familiar with basketball acronyms, a double double is when a player averages double figures in scoring and rebounds per game. Simmons stands at 6’10 inches and can play all five positions on the basketball court.
However, after first glance, besides averaging a double double, a couple of other stats reveal that Simmons might be even more special. He averages nearly five assists per game. Nobody else on the major college level, standing at 6’10 or above, comes close to averaging five assists per game. To put this in better prospective, let’s compare this to Bob Pettit and Shaquille O’Neal, two former LSU centers who were college all-Americans and National Basketball Association hall of famers.
As a sophomore, during the 1951-52 season, Pettit averaged 25.6 points and 13.7 rebounds per game. In that era, freshmen did not play on the varsity teams. His assists per game are hard to find.
As a freshman at LSU, O Neal averaged 13.9 points per game, 12 rebounds a contest, and 1.9 assists per game.
Simmons is averaging 19.5 points per game, and 12.5 rebounds per game as a freshman. However, this is not whole story. Simmons is fourth in the Southeastern Conference in assists per game, averaging 4.9 per contest. No player in the SEC, or the nation, who stands 6’10 or above, is close to this average. Simmons also averages 1.5 steals per game, third in league play. Once again, no player standing at 6’10 or above is close to this average.
The assists and steals are what really describe Simmons. He is actually a point center, something the world of college basketball has rarely, if ever, seen. His mobility allows him to post up opposing big men in different positions, getting them into foul trouble. His height allows him to have great court vision from anywhere on the floor, a la Magic Johnson. Hence he has multiple impacts on a game, even when he is not scoring a lot of points. He does not have to score a lot of points to make his team effective.
So far, his teammates and coaches at LSU cannot seem to it figure out. If they do, before Simmons takes his unique game to the NBA, LSU may be able to make a deep run into the NCAA tournament in March.