Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Future NBA Lottery Picks Simmons, Rabb Set to Battle Friday on ESPN2
If all goes according to plan, Ben Simmons and Ivan Rabb could both hear NBA Commissioner Adam Silver call their names early in the 2016 NBA Draft.
The 6-foot-10 Simmons is projected as the No. 2 pick in that year’s draft by DraftExpress.com, while the 6-10 Rabb is pegged at No. 7.
Basketball fans will get a peak into the future when the two big men square off Friday night when Rabb and Oakland (CA) Bishop O’Dowd (2-0) visit Simmons and Montervde (FL) Academy (6-0). The game will be shown at 6:30 p.m on ESPN2.
“I think you have two guys that have an excellent chance not only to be pro players, but to be good pro players,” Montverde coach Kevin Boyle told SNY.tv.
Montverde is No. 1 in the ESPN high school basketball rankings, while O’Dowd is No. 16. PrepNation.com has the two schools 1-2 in their poll.
***Get the entire ESPN high school basketball schedule here.***
“I think it’s rare when in one poll you have 1 playing 2 [as teams] and 1 playing 2 as players, that doesn’t happen too often,” Boyle said.
Simmons, a native of Australia, has signed with LSU and is already on record saying he could be one-and-done.
Rabb will commit late and is considering Kentucky, Kansas, Arizona, Cal and UCLA.
“His ultimate goal is to be drafted into the NBA within the next two, possibly, three years,” Tami Rabb, the player’s mother, recently told SNY.tv.
Rabb is more of a traditional post player, while Simmons is a versatile point forward who has played some point guard for Montverde this season. Boyle has compared Simmons to LeBron James in terms of his ability to pass for a big man.
“I think Ben’s a little bit more versatile, a little bit more explosive away from the basket,” said Boyle. “He’s definitely more versatile, he’s played a lot of point for us this year. And then the kid Rabb is a tremendous low-post player, great turnaround shooter in the post. He’s also a shot-blocker so he can change the game blocking shots. But I think being Ben’s coach, I’m clearly prejudiced. I think Ben’s clearly the best player in the country when you look at the versatility he brings from playing in high school from anywhere from the one to the five position.
“And in the future, on the next level, I think he’s going to merge into a real good two or three, probably more of a three defending other guys. ”
One big question is how much the two bigs will guard each other in this game.
Boyle said he wants to avoid getting Simmons in early foul trouble.
“You don’t want to have your best guy get an early foul or two,” Boyle said. “I probably won’t start Ben on [Rabb] because he’s a good player and he’s hard to guard for five or six possesssions without getting at least one foul when he’s attacking the basket.”
O’Dowd coach Lou Richie told SNY.tv said he will have Rabb guard Simmons.
“I think they are going to match up,” Richie said. “Ivan will guard Ben as far as I know. He has a knack for staying out of foul trouble and putting other people into foul trouble. But we’re not changing anything. We’re going to go at them full throttle, we want an up-and-down game, and we think it’s going to be a great game for the ages.”
Said Boyle: “I think [Rabb] is the only guy that can guard Ben if they don’t play zone. For them, they have the same question because then he’s going to get in foul trouble. And the game could be lopsided if he’s not in on their side. On our side, we can survive portions without Ben. I don’t know if they can survive portions without Ivan.”
Richie said both players “have an incredible skillset,” but play different roles.
“We ask Ivan to play closer to the rim just because he shoots such a high percentage the last two years,” Richie added. “We committed to him that he could try to come out away from the rim and try to diversify his game because he has thee ability to do it. It’s just that a lot of the time we don’t ask him to do that.
“A lot of times Ivan is our tallest player but their best lineup could be when they go four small with Ben as the big.”
Looking ahead for Montverde, Boyle will return home to New Jersey in February when his team plays Kentucky-bound point guard Isaiah Briscoe and Roselle Catholic and then St. Benedict’s Prep in the Metro Classic Feb. 13-14 at Kean University
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.