By Andrew Porter

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Back in December, Phil Martelli compared Ben Simmons to Lebron James.

Now, while the 21-year head coach of the Saint Joseph’s Hawks sounds a bit less bullish on the LSU product, he still says he would take Simmons with the No. 1 overall pick if he were the 76ers.

Related: Ben Simmons’ Top 5 Games At LSU

“I would take Simmons,” Martelli told Angelo Cataldi and the 94WIP Morning Show on Thursday. “I think that his passing ability, his play making ability, his physicality for that league. Ingram may end up being the better long-term, but I think at 18 or 19 on a team that is full of kids really, I think you have to take the physical presence and the ability that Simmons has. Simmons has an ability that will move him into the elite in that league, and that is his passing and play making.”

Phil Martelli on the 94WIP Morning Show


In his freshman year, Simmons became the first college player since Ron Harper in 1986 to average at least 19 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists. Simmons did all this while attempting just three three’s (1-3).

So, there are two parts of Simmons’ game that are often criticized by scouts and skeptics: shooting and personality. Martelli isn’t concerned about either.

Porter: Ben Simmons Over Brandon Ingram And It’s Not That Close

“You can [teach someone to shoot],” Martelli explained. “Simmons is going to need to gravitate to the teacher on whatever staff he ends up. If he ends up on the Lakers, he’s going to have to gravitate toward that teacher. And he’s going to need to do that more than an hour and a half.

“I don’t know the answer to that, but from what I understand and I observed as a high-school player, he had tremendous respect for the game and he seemed to be a young guy — even at that time, number one player in high-school — he did it with not the great big ego that can get in the way,” Martelli continued. “And that the money will get in the way, and the contract will get in the way, and the number one pick will get in the way. I don’t see that, I didn’t see that. So, I think older, stronger is better.”