Ben Simmons, the freshman phenom from Baton Rouge, did not appear as one of the 15 finalists on the latest Wooden Award rankings. The criteria for the award extends far beyond just on-court play, as candidates must maintain a cumulative GPA above 2.0 and demonstrate good character off-court as well.
John Jones, LSU’s head coach, told ESPN that “he wasn’t certified by the school to be on the ballot.” While Simmons has shown to be one of the best players in college basketball, averaging 19.7 points & 11.9 rebounds per game, his ineligibility is most likely because of academics.
Before being benched for academic reasons on Feb. 20 against Tennessee, Simmons started every game before that and had started the games since. The potential number one overall pick recorded 21 points and nine rebounds in a Tiger loss that day.
The recipient of the Wooden Award is graded on his overall performance for the season — non-conference play, conference play, and tournament play. LSU has been okay this season and is on the bubble for the big dance, which would’ve severely hampered his case for winning the award.
Despite his disqualification, I don’t believe Simmons would’ve won the award. His case is strong, no question, but my pick is Buddy Hield, with Simmons finishing behind him. Denzel Valentine, Brice Johnson, Kay Felder, and Grayson Allen have also made great cases for the honor and appear to be the front-runners for it.
This “incident,” if you want to call it that, shouldn’t impact any NBA team from drafting him. It’s not surprising that a 19-year-old kid doesn’t like school. After all, he’s really only there because he needs to be at school for that one season. Being removed from the list doesn’t seem to bother him, either. Simmons came out and said that all he cares about is winning, which is great.