When Ben Simmons saw LeBron James and other NBA stars wearing “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts earlier this month, the high school senior basketball player followed suit.
“It kind of hit me, because my dad grew up in that same area,” Simmons said of New York City, where over the summer an unarmed man named Eric Garner died after a police officer put him in a choke hold.
The police officer was not charged, prompting protests.
Unlike most other high school players, Simmons can draw more attention by wearing such a shirt.
Simmons, who stands 6-foot-10, handles the ball better than most high school point guards do. The Montverde Academy forward is regarded by most college basketball recruiting analysts as the No. 1 player in the nation. He plays for the consensus No. 1 team.
That team has won the past two Culligan City of Palms Classic championships as well as national championships. The march for title No. 3 began Friday afternoon with a 64-59 victory against Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne, the No. 34 team in USA Today’s rankings.
After Simmons scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and had four assists, the co-MVP of last year’s Classic found himself surrounded, as usual, by autograph hounds at Bishop Verot High School’s John Nevins Gymnasium.