The nation’s No. 1 high school basketball player will play in the state of Louisiana for the first time Thursday night.
Fortunately for LSU fans, it won’t be his final game playing here.
Ben Simmons, a 6-foot-9 forward for Montverde Academy (Fla.), will lead his team against Helen Cox in the quarterfinals of the AllState Sugar Bowl National Prep Classic at 7:30 p.m. at the Alario Center in Westwego.
“It’s the first time I have ever played here, so it’s definitely big for me,” said Simmons, who signed with LSU in November. “I’m a little nervous, but not too nervous. I’m just ready to play.”
Simmons, an Australia native, is rated the top senior in the country by ESPN. He has helped lead Montverde to back-to- back national championships. The Eagles (16-1) are currently ranked No. 1 in the country by USA Today, No. 2 in the MaxPreps Freeman rankings and No. 4 in the CBS MaxPreps Xcellent 25.
Simmons if hoping to bring those lofty rankings to LSU as well.
“I’m the type of player who wants to leave a legacy and make a big impact, and I feel like LSU is a good place,” Simmons said about his decision to attend LSU.
Simmons will be joined at LSU by his AAU teammate Antonio Blakeney, who committed to the Tigers on Friday.
Blakeney, a 6-foot-4 guard who plays at Oak Ridge (Fla.) High, is the No. 14 prospect in the country according to ESPN.
“That’s a big get,” Simmons said. “I played with him for a while and our chemistry is good on and off the court.”
Montverde coach Kevin Boyle says Simmons and Blakeney should make for a deadly duo for LSU.
“Antonio is a terrific outside shooter and I think they will complement each other well,” Boyle said. “Ben is such a good passer. If you try to double him, he is good at finding guys across court. If they want to stay off Blakeney, he is a guy who can really knock it in. It’s a good get for them.”
Could there be even more highly recruited players in the mix for LSU?
“Hopefully,” Simmons said. “Who knows? I think the coaching staff is doing a good job with recruiting.”
The winner of Thursday’s game between Montverde and Cox advances to Friday’s 7:30 p.m. semifinal to play the winner of Thursday’s game between Karr and Landry-Walker.
Other boys games in the winners bracket of the Sugar Bowl Classic on Thursday are:
Natchitoches Central vs. Westgate (3 p.m.); West Jefferson vs. Arcadia (3 p.m.); and Riverside vs. Tift County (Ga.) (6 p.m.)
The Sugar Bowl Classic concludes with the championship game on Saturday at 8 p.m.