Simmons' former high school coach Down Under lauds No 1 pick
A long, long way from Brooklyn's Barclays Center, a loud cheer erupted when Australian-born Ben Simmons was chosen No. 1 in the NBA draft by the Philadelphia 76ers.
It was a group of students crowded into the library at Melbourne's Box Hill Senior Secondary College, where Simmons attended ninth and 10th grades when he was 15 and 16 years old.
A cool, blustery winter Friday morning in southeastern Australia suddenly became a lot warmer for those around the television set.
''The kids were all excited and happy for him,'' said Kevin Goorjian, Simmons' former basketball coach at Box Hill. ''He has worked really hard to get here. And he's here now. It's a fantastic achievement for him and his family. We're all so proud of him.''
The California-born Goorjian was invited by Simmons and his family to attend the draft in New York, but he had to turn them down.
''There was a health issue in the family, I couldn't get on the plane,'' Goorjian said. ''Everything is all right now. But it was an honor for them to have invited me.''
Goorjian has been part of Simmons' Melbourne connection since his Box Hill days.
''A fabulous player, just one of those kids who kept getting better, maturing and stronger all the time,'' Goorjian told The Associated Press in an earlier interview, explaining how Simmons played with against high school seniors from an early age. ''He was super-talented and a great athlete. In Year 9, he was playing with many year 12s, and in my year 12s there were a few players who went on to play Division 1 and 2 in the States.''
Simmons' father is Dave Simmons, an American who played college basketball at Oklahoma City University. Simmons and Ben's mother, Julie, a divorced mother of four from Melbourne, met in 1991 in Melbourne when Dave Simmons was playing for the Melbourne Tigers in Australia's National Basketball League. Julie and Dave Simmons had two more children of their own, Ben and his older sister, Olivia.
Goorjian, who has lived in Australia for 26 years, is the brother of former Australia national coach Brian Goorjian, and Kevin is a former assistant with the national team. So Kevin Goorjian has also worked with Andrew Bogut, who was Australia's only other No. 1 NBA draft pick in 2005.
''Andrew was a 7-footer, fantastic passer and scorer. Ben was 6-9 wing that blocked the ball up.'' Goorjian said. ''Two different kinds of players. And remember Ben is younger, Andrew got two years of college in.
''Ben works extremely hard on his game, whether it's on the court or in the weight room. His body has totally changed, along with his strength. He is a legit 6-10 and moves like a guard. When I had him he lacked a little bit of strength. But he's got that now.''