DESTIN, Fla. – LSU athletic director Joe Alleva said Ben Simmons and his family had full knowledge and were supportive of a promotion campaign to sell men’s basketball season tickets featuring the highly-rated recruit, a campaign that has sparked nationwide debate.

“Ben and his family know about it, totally signed off on it and are excited and thrilled,” Alleva said Wednesday during the SEC Spring Meeting.

“We’re trying to put fans in the stands. We’re going to have a good team and have some good recruits coming in. We want them to play in front of a full house.”

A likeness of Simmons, the nation’s consensus No. 1 incoming freshman, has been featured on posters, ads and electronic billboards promoting season tickets. Alleva said he’s unaware of what impact if any the campaign has had so far.

Asked to comment on whether the campaign shows some student-athletes have a value beyond their scholarship, Alleva reiterated: “We are trying to fill the arena and make our fans aware we have an exciting basketball team, period. We just want them to know what we have in store.”

LSU’s campaign to attract new season ticket holders for the 2015-16 men’s basketball team attracted some national criticism as well just one day after being launched.

The LSU Athletic Department kicked off its summer season ticket sales campaign this past Wednesday featuring the nation’s top incoming freshman — power forward Benny Simmons, the cornerstone of coach Johnny Jones’ third-ranked recruiting class.

Simmons is the headliner of a recruiting class that includes three of the top 39 players in the nation: Simmons, shooting guard Antonio Blakeney and Madison Prep guard Brandon Sampson, who was named Louisiana Mr. Basketball.

LSU, which went 22-11 last season and earned an NCAA tournament bid for the first time in six seasons, will add its heralded class to a group of returnees that includes Tim Quarterman, Keith Hornsby, Jalyn Patterson and Josh Gray and Arizona transfer Craig Victor.

– Scott Rabalais