LSU’s Ben Simmons is unquestionably one of the best college basketball players in the nation. The 6-foot-10 do-everything hybrid forward for the Tigers leads the team in points (19.6), rebounds (11.9), assists (5.0), steals (2.0), and blocks (0.8) per game.
However, Simmons is not a finalist for the Wooden Award, given annually to the most outstanding college basketball player in America. According to ESPN, this happened because Simmons didn’t meet the academic requirement for the award of at least a 2.0 grade point average. It’s a brutal way for Simmons to not make the ballot, but at this point there’s nothing he can do about it.
Word of this got to Kentucky’s fans before Saturday’s game between the Wildcats and the Tigers. While Simmons was shooting a free throw, Big Blue Nation serenaded him with “GPA” chants. Simmons went on to have a big game in LSU’s eventual loss – 17 points, 11 rebounds, 7 steals, 4 assists, ho hum – but the big story from the game was the chant by Kentucky fans.
Really, Simmons’ low grade point average is an example of how myopic basketball’s one-and-done rule has become. As anyone who has watched five minutes of LSU basketball can tell you, Simmons is NBA-ready right now, and the fact that he even had to spend any time in college is kind of ridiculous. He’s also about as big of a lock to go pro after this year as any prospect in recent memory. It’s a better move for Simmons to work on basketball constantly right now because he’s going to earn a lot of money during his professional career. He’ll have plenty of time for college whenever his brief (at least in terms of overall lifespan) pro career ends.
Also, if you are a basketball fan, it’s pretty funny that Kentucky fans would be the ones who do this to Simmons. The Wildcats’ recent run of success has been built on guys who were one-and-dones, like Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Julius Randle, Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker, etc. Plus this year’s team has a bunch of really talented freshmen, and one of them (combo guard Jamal Murray) is going to be a lottery pick if he decides to declare. If any fan base should understand that college basketball is an unnecessary step for the best high schoolers in America, you’d like to think that it’s Wildcats fans.
At any rate, Simmons’ college basketball career will almost certainly end when the Tigers’ season concludes this month. Once that happens, all of this will be in the past, because Simmons will be on his way to the NBA.