Saying he was ''tired of losing,'' Simmons this week helped LSU survive a close, high-scoring game against North Florida - and snap a three-game skid - by scoring 43 points, something no Tigers player had done since O'Neal in 1991.
Even without his scoring, the versatile, 6-foot-10 Simmons would have had a good game with 14 rebounds, seven assists, five steals and three blocked shots.
Simmons plays in a basketball stadium named for former LSU great Pete Maravich (the Pete Maravich Assembly Center), who averaged 44.2 points per game during a three-year college career.
Simmons is not expected to spend more than one season at LSU before entering the NBA draft, and he may be hard pressed to average anywhere near 44 points per game.
Still, his exceptional all-court play through his first seven games gives an indication of what the Tigers might be able to expect as Simmons becomes more comfortable with his teammates and the college game.
Certainly, North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll, whose coaching career has included stints as an assistant in the ACC with Clemson and Big 12 with Baylor, made it clear that he saw Simmons as a rather rare talent.
''This dude guards. This dude rebounds. This guy gets steals and his IQ is off the roof, and I've never seen a more complete package,'' Driscoll said. ''His overall game and his overall talent is as great as I've ever seen. ... (Kevin) Durant was the best offensive player - not even close. But I'm talking about the overall talent (with Simmons). Wow!''
Here are some things to know about Simmons' remarkable start to the season:
TO THE HOLE: Simmons is not known for his outside shooting, but his instincts, vision and ball-handling still get him a lot of opportunities to score near the basket when he decides he needs to score. His 43 points against North Florida were the most by an SEC player since Arkansas' Rotnei Clarke scored 51 against Alcorn State on Nov. 13, 2009.
NOVEMBER MEN: Only two Division I college players in the last 20 seasons have averaged at least 15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists during the month of November. One was Simmons. The other was Evan Turner, who did it during his junior season (2009-10) at Ohio State.
RARIFIED AIR: When Simmons posted 21 points, 20 rebounds and seven assists in LSU's loss last week to Marquette, he became only the fifth major conference player to have at least 20 points, 20 rebounds and five assists in a game in the last two decades. The others were: Blake Griffin, Michael Sweetney, Eddie Griffin and Tim Duncan.
COURT SENSE: Because Simmons often sees himself as a facilitator, he doesn't always score in bunches, but rather looks to pass first. Against North Carolina State last week, Simmons had a game in which he scored 4 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and had 10 assists without a single turnover. While his point total was low that night, coaches pay attention when a big man produces a stat line like that. There hasn't been one other Division I player listed at 6-10 or taller who has posted a 10-assist, zero-turnover game in the last 20 years.
ALL-AROUND GAME: Through seven career games, Simmons' 139 points, 104 rebounds, 42 assists and 17 steals compares favorably to many of college basketball's biggest starts of the past two decades. Simmons' point total hasn't quite matched that of Kansas State's Michael Beasley (187), Syracuse's Carmelo Anthony (173), or Texas' Kevin Durant (163) during the same opening stint in their careers, but Simmons' assists are double what anyone in that group had and none had as many steals. Beasley is the only member of that elite group with more rebounds, with just one more at 105. Simmons also is off to a more prolific start, in terms of points, rebounds, assists and steals, than Kentucky's Anthony Davis (91 points, 64 rebounds, 8 assists, 9 steals), Oklahoma's Blake Griffin (94, 64, 11, 10) or North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough (112, 51, 9, 6).