Ben Simmons wins Wootten Award

Ben Simmons, the No. 1 recruit in the 2015 ESPN 100, was named the Morgan Wootten Award winner Tuesday.

The award is annually given to the best male McDonald's All American player who exemplifies outstanding character, exhibits leadership and embodies the values of being a student-athlete in the classroom and in the community.

"It's definitely a big honor," said Simmons, who has signed with LSU. "And when you look at some of the former winners, such as LeBron James and the other great players, it just motivates me to work even harder."

Simmons, a native of Australia who is attending Montverde Academy, is the second player from a Florida high school to win the award (Austin Rivers, 2011).

McDonald's established the award to pay tribute to Wootten, the longtime coach of DeMatha Catholic.

Simmons, who entered the U.S. in 2012, has come a long way in a short amount of time. When he first played for Montverde, he felt a little overmatched.

"My first game against Oak Hill at the Dick's Nationals was a bit overwhelming from a physical standpoint," Simmons said. "I remember Troy Williams going in for a dunk, and I just got out of the way. I knew I had an understanding of how to play and I was athletic, but I did not understand how to put it all together."

After working on his game and his body, Simmons rose up the national rankings, and in September, he ascended to the No. 1 spot in the ESPN 100.

Simmons takes part in community service projects at Montverde such as visiting local hospitals.

"Our school has a program called Basketball Buddies, and I have a group of fourth- and fifth-graders who I help with their school work, mentor and spend time with, and I love it," he said. "It feels good to know I can be a role model and kids can look up to me. It also helps me make the right choices."

Simmons will play in the McDonald's game April 1 then head to New York City for the Dick's Nationals. He then heads out to the Nike Hoop Summit as a member of the World team. He was named the MVP of the Dick's Nationals last year, and Montverde has won back-to-back championships there.

"This is my senior year, and my focus is to compete and win in every game I play," Simmons said.