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O’Boyle: No surprise Simmons goes pro

| Tuesday, March 22, 2016

In the least surprising news imaginable, Ben Simmons has declared for the NBA Draft.

The 6-foot-10-inch freak athlete averaged nearly 20 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists per game and earned comparisons to LeBron James and Magic Johnson. It’s not hard to see why he’s a strong contender for the first overall pick in this year’s draft.

But Simmons’ biggest accomplishment hasn’t been how he has played. Leading LSU to a hardly-formidable 19-14 record, ending with a limp defeat to Texas A&M, hardly makes him a great of college basketball. Even if the backlash against Simmons did begin to get just as out-of-control as the hype, there’s no way he was the best player in the nation.

What Simmons did achieve, though, was creating the biggest mockery of the NBA’s ludicrous one-and-done rule imaginable. Since the league decided in 2005 that players cannot go directly from high school to the pros but instead must spend one year out, college players with obvious NBA potential have made little secret of their desires to put in just one year with their team before leaving.

Simmons did not need a year at LSU to develop. Whatever part of his game still needs work, most notably his jump shot, could be remedied far better in the pros than on this LSU team. Basketball isn’t football either. Simmons isn’t going to be facing a greater injury risk by playing against grown men, many of whom are already behind him athletically. From a purely NBA-based perspective, there’s not really a good reason why Simmons should have had to spend a year at LSU.

From a college-sports perspective, the idea becomes even more bizarre. With just one year in college, what did you expect Simmons to do? What does he have to gain by getting a 4.0 for the first quarter of a degree he’ll never need. When you have a test coming up, thinking of the worst case scenario if you don’t study is one way to remind yourself the need to work hard. For most students, it’s failing out of school. For most student athletes, there’s the risk of academic ineligibility from their sport, too. But as a basketball player who’ll be in the NBA a year later, Simmons only needed to hit the low first-semester targets and coast for his second.

Not only is ignoring the “student” part of the “student-athlete” designation a possible strategy for players like Simmons, they’d practically be fools not to do it. You don’t need to spend four years in college to see that learning about Oceanography  — a class Simmons said he struggled with — is not going to help his career. His career is in basketball — there is no doubt about that. And even if he doesn’t turn into the transcendent pro many expect, he’s going to make a lot more money before he turns 25 than the greatest oceanographers will make in their lifetimes.

I struggle to bring myself to study despite the fact that NBA scouts have shown little interest in me. If I were in Simmons’ position, I can categorically say I would put in no more effort in the classroom than he did.

So what did Simmons have to lose? Eligibility for the Wooden Award? He wasn’t going to win for on-the-court reasons anyway, and he could still easily carve out an NBA career that makes him forget about any college awards. The respect of scouts who wanted to see his work ethic? Surely there has to be a better way of judging that — one that actually relates a bit more to basketball.

If a player is ready, he’s ready. And plenty of players have been ready. Has that extra year in college really helped players mature as people? Has it helped them develop all that much as basketball players? College will always be there for the players who can use it, but for the Ben Simmonses of the world, it offers nothing.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Daniel O'Boyle

Daniel O'Boyle is a senior sports writer living in Alumni Hall, majoring in Political Science. He is currently on the Notre Dame Women's Basketball, Men's Tennis and Women's Soccer beats. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, Daniel spends most of his free time attempting to keep up with second-flight English soccer and his beloved Reading FC. He believes Lonzo Ball is the greatest basketball player of all time.

Contact Daniel