Big Ben tip of ice­berg for Aussie hope­fuls

The Weekend Post - - Sport -

EVIN PRIEST NEXT Sun­day, Ben Sim­mons will be­come the first Aus­tralian to play in the NBA’s All­Star show­piece.

But his Philadel­phia coach Brett Brown says he won’t be the last bas­ket­baller from Down Un­der to play for the 76ers.

In fact, Brown be­lieves Sim­mons’ rapid rise among elite NBA stars has paved the way for more Aus­tralians to join the proud Philadel­phia fran- chise which once housed bas­ket­ball greats Wilt Cham­ber­lain, Julius Erv­ing, Charles Barkley and Allen Iver­son.

“I’m such a fan of the Aus­tralian sport­ing men­tal­ity; they are won­der­ful team­mates and they are peo­ple you like go­ing into bat­tle along­side,” Brown said.

As well as Sim­mons, Brown has over­seen the in­tro­duc­tion of Syd­ney na­tive Jonah Bolden to the NBA after Philadel­phia re­called the for­mer Home­bush Boys High student from play­ing in Europe.

The 23-year-old Bolden has notched 105 points in 28 games at an av­er­age of 3.8 per game, as well as an av­er­age of 3.5 re­bounds.

While Bolden al­ter­nates be­tween the NBA and the Six­ers’ G League club the Delaware Blue Coats, Sim­mons is a vi­tal cog in the Six­ers’ ti­tle hopes.

The 208cm, 104kg Sim­mons has es­tab­lished him­self among the NBA’s top point guards with eight triple-dou- bles this sea­son alone. The 22year-old boasts sub­lime phys­i­cals gifts and bas­ket­ball vi­sion be­yond his ex­pe­ri­ence, but Brown says it is Sim­mons’ men­tal strength and drive which sets him apart.

They are traits Brown grew to ad­mire in play­ers dur­ing more than a decade coach­ing in Aus­tralia with the Boomers, as well as men­tor­ing the Syd­ney Kings in the NBL.

“You can’t deny my affin­ity for Aus­tralia,” Brown says. “If you told me I could get (Aus- tralian stars in the NBA) like Joe In­gles, Patty Mills, (Aron) ‘Bay­nesy’ and (Matthew) ‘Delly’ (Del­lave­dova) – I’d be all in.

“I’m such a fan of those peo­ple I’ve coached be­fore and Aus­tralian bas­ket­ball play­ers in gen­eral.

“Whether we can at­tract fu­ture Aus­tralians, I don’t know.

“But we will al­ways give them the strong­est of strong con­sid­er­a­tions be­cause of the things I’ve seen in my back­ground.”

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