NEW YORK: Philadelphia selected Ben Simmons with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft, making the Australian forward the first 76ers top pick since Allen Iverson 20 years ago.
“It feels amazing, honestly,” Simmons said.
“I can’t even—my legs were shaking when I was on stage,” he added.
“Anything you want to do, you can do. I’ve been wanting to do that since I was five, six, seven and I’ve finally accomplished that.”
The 19-year-old playmaker from Melbourne is also the third Australian-born player taken first overall, joining Kyrie Irving (2011) and Andrew Bogut (2005).
The Los Angeles Lakers chose small forward Brandon Ingram with the second overall pick and the Boston Celtics made forward Jaylen Brown the third pick at the Barclays Center arena.
Simmons averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists playing US college basketball last season at Louisiana State.
“I am happy the Sixers chose me. I have been working so hard to get to this point,” he said.
“It honestly feels like all this pressure just has hopped off me. Now I can relax, but now I know where I’m going to be.”
He has been on NBA scouts’ radars since moving to the United States in 2013 to attend Florida’s Montverde Academy.
Simmons conducted his only workout for the 76ers on Tuesday. He has skill at passing and ball handling as well as the size and strength to succeed as a big man scoring and grabbing rebounds.
He goes to a team that seems to be constantly rebuilding, compiling a dismal 47-199 win-loss record since 2013.
The 76ers are coached by Brett Brown, an American who guided the Aussie Olympic squad to the 2012 London Olympic quarter-finals and took Australian league coach of the year honors in 1994 as he guided the North Melbourne Giants to a title.
Simmons, who has the same agent as the new three-time NBA champion LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, has been working out in the Ohio city ahead of the draft.
He will turn 20 on July 20 shortly after he concludes his first pro games in the NBA Summer League.
The Los Angeles Lakers selected Duke University forward Ingram with the second pick. He averaged 17.3 points and 6.8 rebounds in his lone season with the Blue Devils.
It was the Lakers’ first pick in the post-Kobe Bryant era.
“You kind of feel pressure, but it’s a good pressure, of course,” Ingram said. “It gives you motivation and the potential to be someone like Kobe Bryant and some of the greats in the league.”
The Celtics had obtained the pick from Brooklyn in the 2013 Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce trade. Brown averaged 14.6 points and 5.4 rebounds in his only season with California.
With the fourth pick, the Suns selected Bosnian forward Dragan Bender, who averaged 14.4 points and 10.4 rebounds in 25 games for Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Highest Croatian pick
Bender is the highest player ever picked from his homeland, overtaking Mario Hezonja, who was chosen fifth in 2015.
Minnesota had the fifth pick and used it on Providence guard Kris Dunn. He was a two-time Big East player of the year and defensive player of the year.
A couple of big trades on Thursday involved NBA veterans.
Forward Serge Ibaka and guard Victor Oladipo were the biggest names moved during the draft.
The Oklahoma City Thunder traded Ibaka to the Orlando Magic for Oladipo, forward Ersan Ilyasova and the rights to the No. 11 overall pick, forward Domantas Sabonis.
Marquese Chriss was the highest draft pick who found himself on the move Thursday.
After being drafted by the Sacramento Kings with the No. 8 overall pick, he was dealt to the Phoenix Suns for the No. 13 pick and guard Bogdan Bogdanovic.