The long wait for the nation’s top men’s basketball recruit and the LSU coaching staff ended early Wednesday afternoon.
As expected, LSU landed the consensus No. 1 prospect when Ben Simmons of Montverde Academy in Montverde, Florida, signed a national letter of intent for the 2015-16 season on the first day of the early signing period.
Simmons, a 6-foot-10, 225-pound power forward, is a native of Melbourne, Australia, who made a non-binding commitment to the LSU program on Oct. 14, 2013 — nine months after he and his parents relocated to Clermont, Florida.
Simmons, 18, made his college choice official during a ceremony Wednesday afternoon at the school — signing the papers with his parents, Dave and Julie, flanking him.
Dave Simmons is a New York City native who played at Oklahoma City College and professionally in Australia, where he was a teammate of current LSU assistant head coach David Patrick. Ben Simmons is Patrick’s godson.
Simmons was the only signee for the LSU men’s and women’s basketball teams Wednesday, though the Lady Tigers are expected to get the signature of at least one player in the early signing period.
“We’re thrilled to have Ben Simmons and his family officially join the LSU basketball family,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said in a university news release. “His talent level, hard work and passion for the game will allow him to make an immediate impact on the program.”
Simmons is LSU’s highest-profile basketball recruit since former star guard Randy Livingston of Newman High School signed in the early 1990s when Jones was an assistant and chief recruiter on Dale Brown’s staff.
It comes at a good time as Jones, who has won 19 and 20 games in his first two seasons at his alma mater, continues to rebuild the program and get the Tigers back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009. The addition of Simmons is especially big if one or both of LSU’s talented sophomore forwards — Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin — decide to give up their college eligibility to enter the NBA draft after the season.
Simmons was named the nation’s top junior last season when he averaged 18.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists a game while shooting 69 percent from the floor and 77 percent from the free-throw line.
He also blocked 88 shots in leading Montverde Academy to a 28-0 record and the title in the national high school tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York. Simmons was named MVP after scoring 24 points and pulling down 12 rebounds.
At the Nike EYBL Peach Jam tournament this summer, Simmons averaged 18.0 points and 6.5 rebounds and later was named high school MVP of the NBAPA Top 100 camp.
Simmons’ ability to shoot from the high post, wing and baseline, and attack the rim when he gets the opportunity, quickly got him on the radar of many schools after his family moved to Florida nearly two years ago. He’s also rated highly for his ability to pass the ball to teammates using either hand.
While Simmons was the only player to sign Wednesday, the Tigers are courting several others. Among them are a pair of 6-4 shooting guards — Antonio Blakeney of Oak Ridge High in Orlando, Florida, and Brandon Sampson of Madison Prep.
Blakeney, a teammate of Simmons in summer ball, is a five-star recruit and the No. 14 overall prospect by ESPN.com. Sampson, Louisiana’s top recruit, gets four stars and is ranked 32nd nationally in ESPN’s top 100.
Both have indicated they won’t sign during the one-week early signing period that ends Nov. 19 and will wait until the spring.
LSU could also be in the hunt for two Louisiana natives: 6-7 small forward Melvin Frazier of L.W. Higgins in Marrero, a four-star prospect, and 6-3 point guard Chad Lott of Shreveport’s Byrd High, a three-star recruit by ESPN.com.
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.