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'He was a gun', Petracca says of Simmons

Ashley Browne  December 18, 2017 10:17 AM

He was an absolute freak. He could jump. He could run. He could kick. He honestly would've been a top-five draft pick had he stuck with football

AS BEN Simmons tears up the NBA in a rookie season that is drawing comparisons with the great LeBron James, his background as an elite junior footballer in Melbourne is starting to earn attention. 

The footy-like traits the Philadelphia 76ers point guard displays on the court were profiled this week by leading NBA writer Kevin Arnowitz on, who said that Simmons regularly kicks and handballs a Sherrin around the Sixers training complex and appears totally at ease with the oblong-shaped ball.

Simmons won a competition best and fairest playing football for Beverley Hills in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs and Demon Christian Petracca, a football and basketball teammate of Simmons, was fulsome in his praise.

"He was a gun," Petracca said. "He was an absolute freak. He could jump. He could run. He could kick. He honestly would've been a top-five draft pick had he stuck with football." 

Utah Jazz and Australian Boomer Joe Ingles said Simmons thrives in the NBA when things get physical.

"So many things on the court for me to translate. In [Australian Football], you're not afraid of contact. You're going to drive into a crowd with your eyes up and your face up. You don't go up for a rebound against other people half-assed because in AFL, you'll get hurt."

Fellow Melburnian and now Los Angeles Laker, Andrew Bogut, added: "The game is physical with a lot of contact. You're constantly wrestling to create space. You're looking to get short bursts off of contact." 

The well-researched article explains many of the finer points of football and the elements from our game that Simmons brings to the NBA, such as the physicality with and without the ball. Bumping, shepherding and even speccies – are AFL traits that Simmons is said to showcase on the court. 

As Simmons himself explained to Arnowitz, "If your man is open, you try to draw a defender, then get rid of the ball. The ball has to move quickly or you're going to get tackled."

"The AFL player has the ability to crawl up the back of an opponent," added Sixers coach Brett Brown, who coached in Australia’s National Basketball League for many years as well as leading the national team. 

"So, Ben, just like an AFL player ... when it's a 50-50 ball, he gets it. 

"There's a toughness and a mentality. Ben Simmons can rebound in traffic. Ben Simmons can run up your back and grab screamers. That's an AFL thing. That's Ben."