In an announcement that should come as no surprise, LSU forward Ben Simmons was named the 2016 SEC Freshman of the Year on Tuesday.
Simmons, who is widely expected to go No. 1 overall in June's NBA draft, was also named to the All-SEC first team. He and Kentucky's Jamal Murray are the only two freshmen to earn all-conference honors.
Other awards given included Kentucky's Tyler Ulis winning conference Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors. Billy Kennedy of Texas A&M was the SEC Coach of the Year after leading the Aggies to a share of the regular-season conference title.
Simmons, an Australian, averaged 19.6 points, 11.9 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game during the regular season. He scored in double figures in all but one game, utilizing brilliant playmaking skills and silky athleticism to get himself free near the basket. Widely viewed as the top prospect in the 2016 class, Simmons has been everything LSU expected from an individual standpoint.
“LSU’s [Simmons] is the best all around player I’ve seen since LeBron James came out of high school straight to the NBA!” NBA great Magic Johnson tweeted in January. “Whatever team selects [Simmons], will be getting a player that will have an immediate impact on their squad!”
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Unfortunately, Simmons' brilliance has not translated to team success. LSU enters the conference tournament at 18-13, in desperate need of a deep run to make the NCAA tournament. ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi does not even have the Tigers among the first eight teams out hanging on the bubble. They will probably need to make the championship game to get committee consideration; otherwise, Simmons' time in Baton Rouge will end in the NIT.
Simmons has also come under a bit of fire lately for his poor academic standing. He was not nominated for the Wooden Award after failing to meet the academic standards, per ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman.
"I don't know. I'm not too sure, but I believe I'm still the best player, so as long as I believe it, it doesn't really matter," Simmons said.
"Mr. Wooden was a teacher, right?" Simmons added. "It's a part of it. That's their criteria. They talk about playing so much then they bring other stuff into it. It is what it is. I'm not fazed by it. I just wanted to win for my team and see how far we could go."
As it stands, it's hard to blame Simmons for putting class on the back burner. There is a zero percent chance he returns for his sophomore season; the worries of eligibility have long passed. Basketball will soon be his one and only job, and it's clear Simmons is one of the nation's most unique talents. Him winning this award was a no-brainer.