As a teenager, Simmons was torn between his two loves of basketball and Australian rules football, but eventually decided to focus on basketball. In Year 9, at the age of 15, Simmons played basketball for Box Hill Senior Secondary College at the 2011 Australian Schools Championships before taking up a scholarship at the Australian Institute of Sport in 2012. Later that year, he made his first appearance in the United States at the renowned Pangos All-American Camp for basketball prospects. Despite being only 15 years old, he was chosen to represent Australia at the 2012 FIBA Under-17 World Championship.
In his only season of NCAA competition, LSU failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. He then decided to leave school and enter the NBA draft and, following countrymen Andrew Bogut and Kyrie Irving, became the third Melbourne-born number one overall pick in 11 years.
A dual citizen of Australia and the United States, Simmons has played for the Australian national team.
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