The first day of the early signing period for men’s basketball on Wednesday could be a slow one for LSU coach Johnny Jones and his coaching staff.
But there’s no doubt it will be a loud one.
The Tigers should get a signed national letter of intent in the early afternoon from the nation’s top-rated recruit, 6-foot-8, 225-pound power forward Ben Simmons of Clermont, Florida, when the week-long signing period begins.
Simmons, a native Australia who plays for national powerhouse Montverde Academy, committed to LSU more than a year ago and will make it official in a 2:30 p.m. signing ceremony at the school, his parents said Tuesday.
Dave and Julie Simmons accompanied their son on an unofficial visit to LSU over the weekend, taking in Friday night’s exhibition win over Morehouse College and the LSU-Alabama football game.
Ben Simmons, who was named the nation’s top junior when he averaged 18.5 points and 9.6 rebounds while helping Montverde to a second straight national championship a year ago, never publicly wavered after making his non-binding commitment 13 months ago.
Apparently, nothing changed over the weekend when he got to stand on the Tiger Stadium sideline before the game.
“We were with him this weekend and we had a great time,” said Dave Robinson, a New York City native who played professionally in Australia. “When he made his official visit in February, it was kind of a quick thing. We had more time to see things on this visit, and there was a huge football game. So we got a great feel for the campus and the college spirit.
“There were some other recruits there as well,” he added, “so it was a very good weekend other than the loss to Alabama.”
“We were exhausted when we got home,” Julie Simmons said. “We love the school. It was an amazing atmosphere, and we were thrilled to be there. I never experienced anything like that in my entire life.”
Ben Simmons is the godson of LSU assistant head coach David Patrick, who played with Dave Simmons in Australia and remained close after their playing days were over.
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 the top programs after his family moved to Florida nearly two years ago. He’s also rated highly for his ability to pass the ball using either hand.
Among the other potential recruits who were on campus this weekend was 6-4 shooting guard Antonio Blakeney, who committed to Louisville in September and then de-committed.
Blakeney, a summer ball teammate of Simmons, is a five-star recruit and the No. 14 prospect in this year’s class by ESPN.com out of Oak Ridge High in Orlando, Florida.
The No. 2-rated player at his position in ESPN’s top 100 prospects, Blakeney took official visits to Missouri and Kentucky last month but likely won’t sign until the spring.
Another recruit on LSU’s radar is 6-4 shooting guard Brandon Sampson of Baton Rouge’s Madison Prep, which sent sophomore forward Jarell Martin to the Tigers last season.
Sampson, Louisiana’s top recruit and the nation’s No. 32 prospect by ESPN, averaged 24.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.7 assists in leading Madison Prep to a Class 1A runner-up finish last spring. He’s made official visits to LSU, St. John’s, Southern Cal and Cal, but won’t sign until the spring.
LSU could also be in the hunt for two Louisiana natives: 6-3 point guard Chad Lott of Byrd High in Shreveport and 6-4 small forward Melvin Frazier of L.W. Higgins in Marrero.
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.