Big Ben tip of iceberg for Aussie hopefuls
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.”