CHICAGO – Ben Simmons has helped Montverde (Montverde, Fla.) win the last two DICK’s Sporting Goods High School Nationals titles, but this year he’ll have to be even more proactive when it comes to his mental preparation.
This week, Simmons, an LSU signee who is the consensus No. 1 overall player in the 2015 class, has to juggle among touring the Windy City, wolfing down its famed deep dish pizza, sightseeing and shopping during the McDonald’s All American pre-game festivities.
Still, Simmons, who will suit up for the East in Wednesday night’s game (9 p.m. ET, ESPN), has managed to stay focused on what he calls “the ultimate goal.”
“It’s not hard for me at all,” Simmons said. “It’s actually easy because nothing’s more important than that. I’ll have fun (in Chicago), but I’ll still be thinking about what it’ll take to win the title.”
Simmons won’t be alone in that regard; Oak Hill Academy’s (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) Dwayne Bacon, Huntington Prep’s (Huntington, W.Va.) Thomas Bryant, Wheeler’s (Marietta, Ga.) Jaylen Brown and Findlay Prep’s (Henderson, Nev.) Allonzo Trier will all split time between having fun as McDonald’s All Americans and getting mentally prepared for DICK’s Nationals.
That’s been even harder for Brown who has had to endure “nonstop” trash-talk from Bacon, his roommate this week, about how “they’d kill us.’
The two teams could potentially meet up in the semifinals.
“This guy will not leave me alone,” Brown said with a laugh. “He said, ‘You might as well lose now so we won’t have to embarrass you!’ I can’t sleep because that’s all he talks about. He said he’s gonna have 40 on us, he’s gonna lock me up and all that. It’s a lot of trash-talk that I’ve gotta deal with.”
That’s not all.
In the past, McDonald’s All Americans such as Austin Rivers, Myck Kabongo and Quinn Cook, to name a few, have conceded that fatigue from a week’s worth of grinding in the Windy City has played a major role in their teams’ ultimate demise.
Bryant is well aware of the potential distraction, but said he’ll combat that by taking a business-like approach.
“This McDonald’s All American game is a great experience and I will cherish and enjoy it while it’s here,” he said. “I also know that me and the Huntington Prep guys have business to take care of in New York as well. We’re trying to win a national championship; I’m not taking my eyes off that.”
Simmons echoed Bryant’s sentiments and said step one will be a good night’s sleep come Wednesday. Win or lose, don’t expect to see him hanging out in the lobby after the big game. Trier has the toughest among them in terms of schedule because Findlay plays in the first quarterfinal at noon ET.
“I have a 5 a.m. flight and the game that next day at 4 p.m. in the quarterfinals,” Simmons said. “I’m gonna get some sleep so I’ll be ready.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY