CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Even though he has yet to play a regular-season game for the LSU basketball team, freshman Ben Simmons continues to pull in the honors.
Simmons was chosen as the preseason player of the year in the Southeastern Conference by a panel of league and national media members, who also picked the Tigers to finish fourth in the conference race this season.
The results were released Wednesday morning to start SEC Tipoff ’16 in which head coaches and two players from each of the 14 conference schools met with media.
Simmons, a 6-foot-10, 230-pound forward from Melbourne, Australia, became only the second freshman to be chosen as the SEC preseason player of the year. The only other freshman to be honored was Kentucky’s Julius Randle before the 2013-14 season.
Simmons is the first LSU player to receive the player of the year honor since it was added by the SEC for the 1997-98 season. Jaime Lloreda was the runner-up in 2004, and Glen Davis was a two-time runner-up in 2006 and ’07.
While he’s earned dozens of awards in his three years of playing basketball in the United States, including three prominent national player of the year awards as a senior at Montverde Academy in Florida, Simmons was humbled to receive the honor.
“It’s crazy just because I haven’t played a game yet,” said Simmons, who accompanied coach Johnny Jones and teammate Keith Hornsby to media day. “It means a lot, but at the same time it means nothing because I haven’t played, and I have a lot to prove to everybody.
“So much is happening for me,” he added. “If I really take it all in, I might be a little overwhelmed, so I just go along with it. It’s an honor to be selected, but I’m ready to play basketball ... we’re all ready to play.”
Joining Simmons on the first team were Kentucky’s Skal Labissiere and Tyler Ulis, Texas A&M’s Danuel House, Ole Miss’ Stefan Moody and Vanderbilt’s Damian Jones, a Baton Rouge native and Scotlandville High graduate.
Like Simmons, Labissiere is a freshman.
LSU guard Tim Quarterman, a junior, was a second-team pick along with Florida’s Dorian Finney-Smith, Mississippi State’s Malik Newman, Georgia’s Charles Mann, Kentucky’s Alex Poythress and Texas A&M’s Alex Caruso.
Jones was a little surprised that Simmons was named the top player but said it was well-deserved.
“His time and energy he’s put in has certainly paid off,” Jones said. “It’s outstanding because we’re talking about a freshman and talking about the number of guys that play in our league. They’ve had lots of success on some really good teams.
“To come in as a freshman and have that honor bestowed upon him means a lot. We do know this: If there is anybody that can handle it the right way and embrace it, it would be Ben.”
Horrnsby, of course, agreed.
“That’s an unbelievable honor, being a freshman,” Hornsby said. “He’s so humble. Obviously, his confidence is so high and (the voters) can see that just off what he’s done in the past.
“Playing with him every day, it’s certainly right. I don’t think I’ve seen a person more ready to play, especially at this level, than him.”
Kentucky was tabbed to win the league title for the 11th time since the 1998-99 season, grabbing the top spot with 406 points to Vanderbilt’s 357.
Texas A&M (344), LSU (333), Georgia (266), Florida (258) and South Carolina (204) rounded out the top half of the league. They were followed by Mississippi State (203), Ole Miss (184), Auburn (168), Arkansas (118), Tennessee (86), Alabama (85) and Missouri (33).
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.
SEC PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. Kentucky, 406 points
2. Vanderbilt, 357
3. Texas A&M, 344
4. LSU, 333
5. Georgia, 266
6. Florida, 258
7. South Carolina, 204
8. Mississippi State, 203
9. Ole Miss, 184
10.. Auburn, 168
11. Arkansas, 118
12. Tennessee, 86
13. Alabama, 85
14. Missouri, 33
G Danuel House, Texas A&M, Sr.
C Damian Jones, Vanderbilt, Jr.
F Skal Labissiere, Kentucky, Fr.
G Stefan Moody, Ole Miss, Sr.
F Ben Simmons, LSU, Fr.
G Tyler Ulis, Kentucky, So.
F Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida, Sr.
G Malik Newman, Mississippi State, Fr.
G Charles Mann, Georgia, Sr.
F Alex Poythress, Kentucky, Sr.
G Tim Quarterman, LSU, Jr.
G Alex Caruso, Texas A&M, Sr,
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Ben Simmons, LSU