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Robinson: Simmons doesn't have to apologise to anybody

Melbourne United coach Dean Demopoulos has seen many different players from the sidelines, as a college coach, NBA assistant and now NBL play-caller, but something stood out when Ben Simmons came to Hisense Arena with LSU last year. “One thing I remember clearly from when we played against them was I could hear his passes, I could hear them going past me,” he said from the Basketball Without Borders Asia camp in Melbourne. “Maybe I have heard that before from other players but I don’t remember it. The fact I could hear his passes tells you the dimension he brings to the game.” Simmons passing ability has earned comparisons with Magic Johnson, while his athleticism has been likened to LeBron James, with projections of the 19-year-old Aussie playing anywhere from point guard to the four-spot. That combination of skill and power will almost certainly see him selected first by the Philadelphia 76ers in tomorrow’s NBA Draft, linking up with former Sydney Kings coach Brett Brown, who coached his father Dave Simmons at the Melbourne Tigers. Yet while Ben has the USA talking with his sublime physical tools, 1987 number one pick David Robinson thinks the mental aspect of leading a lowly-ranked team to the top will be the greater challenge. “You’ve watched the last few years and seen a guy like LeBron, they’ve criticised him so heavily because it’s tough, you’re the one, you’re the man, and every time you see these playoff games you’re supposed to be the guy that’s carrying everybody else,” he said. “And a lot of times you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re trying to figure it out for yourself, so it’s a lot of pressure.” As to whether Simmons could live up to the expectations, Robinson said diamonds are cut from the heat of NBA battles, and a person’s character plays a big part. “When you’ve only been in college for one year you don’t even know what kind of guy he is. I don’t know what Ben Simmons is made of, but we’re going to find out pretty soon,” he said. “Certainly on a talent level he doesn’t have to apologise to anybody.” Simmons will be the fourth Melbourne-born lottery pick in the past 11 NBA Drafts, joining top picks Andrew Bogut and Kyrie Irving and his long-time friend Dante Exum. It will be a special moment when the two buddies, and sons of NBL imports, step onto the NBA floor together, something they’ve dreamed about and discussed for many years. “I’ve already talked to him about that and I’ve told him I’m never going to let him win,” Exum laughed. While Exum will be a fierce rival when Simmons meets the Utah Jazz, he is helping smooth his transition from college into The Show. “He’s got the size and athleticism, he’s going to fit in well, he’ll find out pretty quick from the scouting reports what he’s got to work on,” Exum said. “He’s asked a few things of me, I just said the grind of the season, it’s a wear and tear season, so be ready to work but when you can take a break, take a break, so you can stay on top of everything.” The advice from Robinson is very similar. “The number one hurdle is the length of the season, it wears you down. You don’t realise how taxing it is night in, night out,” he said. “He’s 6’10 with a good body, but he’s going to have 6’10 guys who are 260 pounds hitting him every single night. After about 80 games you’re looking around thinking ‘Oh my gosh, I’m exhausted’. “But I’m sure he’ll figure it out, he wouldn’t be the player he is unless he liked that challenge.”  
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