It’s official: Ben Simmons is a Philadelphia 76er.
The former LSU star heard his named called with the No. 1 overall pick of the 2016 NBA Draft on Thursday night, and walked across the stage of the Barclays in Brooklyn, N.Y., to shake the hand of NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
He becomes LSU’s first No. 1 overall pick since Shaquille O’Neal was drafted by the Orlando Magic in 1992 out of Baton Rouge, La.
“It honestly feels like all this pressure just has hopped off me,” Simmons said. “Now I can relax, but now I know where I’m going to be. More importantly, I know where I’m headed and know I can really start working on what I need to work on for the team.”
Critics have questioned if Simmons is ready for the NBA game, but apparently the Sixers saw enough during workouts and Simmons’ lone season at LSU.
The Australia native averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.3 steals per game during his freshman season in Baton Rouge. Simmons was named the consensus National Freshman of Year, SEC Freshman of the Year and earned First-Team All-American honors from the US Basketball Writers Association.
He is now tasked with helping turn around a franchise that finished with a 10-72 record last season. LSU did not qualify for the NCAA tournament this past season, so Simmons already knows how to handle difficult situations.
“Everything is not going to be perfect,” Simmons said. “You’ve got to learn to fight through adversity, the struggles or whatever happens during the season, but you’ve got to play through it, keep working, and things change.”