If you follow the NBA or college basketball, then you know who will likely be No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. LSU’s freshman phenom Ben Simmons has been dazzling the NCAA with his impressive rebounding ability and skills on the offensive end of the floor. However, he got into trouble last week for “some academic stuff,” according to Tigers head coach Johnny Jones.
ESPN’s college hoops insider Jeff Goodman would later report on ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning that Simmons had skipped class. The reason this got out was Jones’ decision not to start Simmons in the team’s 81-65 loss against Tennessee. However, he did come in after the first media timeout and played the remainder of the game. Simmons went on to put up 21 points and nine rebounds, but also committed a season-high eight turnovers in 36 minutes.
Many have debated whether or not the punishment fit the crime, and clearly it does not. Simmons missed just four and a half minutes of game time. Do you really think the message is going to sink in that he needs to start attending his classes? He still played more minutes than he averages per game (34.9) on Saturday. It is as if he was not punished at all. Goodman, who has known Simmons since his high school days at Montverde Academy in Florida, also told Mike and Mike that he talked to Simmons at the beginning of the season. He asked the freshman how his classes were going, and Simmons gave him a smile. Goodman went on to say that Simmons “doesn’t love the academic component” of college life and that he “knows he is only going to be there for a year.” To be fair, Goodman also said that Simmons is a good kid and that Jones could have swept this issue under the rug. I get all of that.
However, just because we know this happened with Simmons - and it likely occurs with many other Division I players, especially those with NBA careers waiting for them - should not make it tolerable, let alone acceptable. Clearly, these players are there to play basketball, not to study when they should be doing both. Simmons is averaging 19.4 points per game, 11.9 rebounds and five assists per contest this season while trying to lead his school to an NCAA Tournament, even though their chances are dwindling by the day. The message that Jones tried to send Simmons will likely not get through, so my two cents will likely not change the kid’s mind, either. But here it is anyway: Ben, GO TO CLASS! At least try to make it seem like you are buying into the academics at your school. We know you love basketball and want to experience the fun side of college, but seriously, just go to class. Make it look like you are trying here. It just hurts the reputation of college athletics and the NCAA even more.
What Simmons is doing is arrogant. Students on an academic scholarship have to work as hard in class to keep their scholarship as Simmons does on the court to keep his basketball scholarship. If they have time during their busy schedule, they might even want to attend a college basketball game.
It is a two-way street here. Continue with your plan of reaching the NBA, Ben. But please attend class tomorrow. It is the least you can do. Sean Saint Jacques is a journal- ism major from Bloomingdale, N.J. He can be reached at sean.saint- jacques@ student.shu.edu.