For the past 30 years, Gatorade has honored the nation’s most elite high school athletes for their athletic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character with theGatorade Player of the Year award. On July 14, the 12 Gatorade National Players of the Year from the 2014-15 season will gather in Hollywood, where the 13th annual GatoradeHigh School Athlete of the Year award will be presented to the best overall male and female athlete.
In the days leading to the presentation, USA TODAY High School Sports will profile each of the 12 candidates — six boys and six girls.
Ben Simmons journeyed almost 10,000 miles from his native Australia to play prep basketball in the U.S., but earlier today the Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) senior reached the destination he’d always aimed for when he was named the 2014-15 Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
“I’ve been thinking about this award since freshman year,” said Simmons, 18, an LSU signee. “You always look forward to accomplishing the goals you set for yourself, but to have actually done it is a like a weight off my shoulders. I’ve worked so hard for this moment.”
The 6-foot-9, 230-pound forward led the Eagles to a third consecutive title in the DICK’S Sporting Goods National High School Tournament and a final No. 1 ranking in the Super 25. Simmons is averaging 28 points and 11.9 rebounds per game while shooting 71 percent from inside the arc. He was named to USA TODAY’s American Family Insurance ALL-USA Player of the Year.
“You don’t often see kids like this,” said NBA Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins, 55, a nine-time All-Star during his 15 pro seasons who presented the awards. “To win this award shows you how well-rounded Ben is, and to me, that’s more exciting than him being a great basketball player. There’s a humanitarian component going on here and that’s what it’s all about.”
Simmons has maintained a B average in the classroom. He has volunteered on behalf of Basketball Buddies literacy-outreach and as part of a study skills initiative for Montverde elementary students. He has also donated his time as a life skills and study skills guest speaker and mentor in his native Australia.
“Ben is a difference-maker,” said Paul Biancardi, ESPN Basketball National Director of Recruiting. “His game touches so many different categories as he makes an impact with his positional size, versatile scoring ability, rebounding and shot-blocking talent. His versatility is his calling card, but what separates him from his peers is his passing ability. He possesses the vision to see the open man and the willingness to make the pass, as well as the accuracy and understanding to make the play.”
Here are highlights from Simmons this season from our friends at Krossover.com