BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Think back to when you were 18 or 19 years old, what did you fear the most?
Popular conception and surveys indicate nothing terrifies young people (and old actually) more than public speaking. Even if it's a dozen or so measly classmates staring back at you, most kids would rather endure a root canal than be forced to speak before an audience. It's simply embarrassing.
Now imagine being a teenager pushed into a room packed with television, radio and print reporters, cameras rolling, and bright lights shining. The stage fright can then multiply a hundred fold.
For most, this is just an overwhelming situation, but young Ben Simmons is the furthest thing from your ordinary kid. He proved it once again Wednesday afternoon at the LSU basketball complex.
One by one the questions were thrown his way like alley-oop passes, and one by one Simmons elevated to slam each one straight through the hoop. The 6'10, 225 pound true freshman has been rated the No. 1 amateur player in the world and is truly an amazing basketball phenom.
LSU has actually built an entire marketing campaign around Simmons, billed "25 is Coming." The effort has drawn some local and national criticism, pointed to as another reason amateur athletes should be paid. In this case, Simmons swatted those thoughts away like a shot into the fifth row.
"I'm definitely comfortable with it," said Simmons. "It's a great opportunity for me. It's rare that someone has that. I'm blessed to be the face of the basketball program this year. Not many people get the opportunity. A lot of people look at it as a negative thing, but at the same time, you know I'm going to school for free. I'm a on a scholarship. They don't need to pay me anything."
How refreshing is that? About as refreshing as a break from the endless rain in south Louisiana.
Simmons not only addresses questions calmly, intelligently and clearly, but he gives the RIGHT answers. While there are legitimate arguments made for paying NCAA student athletes, many people that push this agenda just rub me the wrong way. It's often the guy with poor posture leaning against a wall, chewing on a straw with one hand in his pocket and the other extended.
"I think that Ben is your ideal student athlete," said LSU head coach Johnny Jones. "How he's handled himself over the last several months, being here and the impact he's made on our team. He understands that he continues to do things the right way and is blessed, that only in a few months some special things can be happening for him."
Indeed, a year from now Ben Simmons will likely be a millionaire and perhaps the No. 1 selection in the 2016 NBA Draft. But at the moment Simmons understands one important concept, playing at LSU is privilege, not a right whether he's here for just one year or not.