All-Star Simmons 'happy, grateful' but has eyes on bigger prize

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Excited, happy, grateful, validated but with eyes on a bigger prize - that was the reaction from Australia's first NBA All-Star Ben Simmons after his selection for February 17's All-Star game in Charlotte.

On Friday, Simmons, 22, secured his maiden All-Star berth as one of the players coming off the bench for the Eastern Conference team.

The Philadelphia 76ers star launched a comprehensive social media campaign to score votes but wasn't named last week as an All-Star starter from a tally of fan, media and NBA player ballots.

The bench players announced were selected by coaches, with Simmons, the NBA 2018 Rookie of the Year, included.

Simmons, who was overlooked last year despite putting up historic numbers in his rookie campaign, found out on the team bus travelling to Oracle Arena for Friday's clash against the Golden State Warriors, with a friend on Facetime notifying him.

He was hit with a mix of emotions once the reality of being the first Australian to make an All-Star team began to sink in.

"I'm excited, I'm happy, I'm grateful ... I'm excited," he told reporters.

"There's always that feeling [of nervousness about possibly not gaining selection] - you're not sure, there's some uncertainty there but once the news came out, I was relieved and happy.

"[Becoming the first Australian All-Star] means a lot - I know I had a lot of people back home who voted for me and who were very supportive of me, so I appreciate that.

"[Selection] wasn't necessarily the main goal for me, but it's one of those goals that if I am reaching where I want to be one day, it's going to happen.

"There's that [validation] side of it too, but in my head I've always felt I belonged in this game."

However Simmons was quick to point out his main career objective was to win NBA titles, not gain individual honours.

"I grew up dreaming of championships - not All-Star appearances," he said.

In amongst the clamour of social media praise, and fellow player acclaim bestowed upon Simmons in the wake of his selection, 76ers coach Brett Brown took a moment before his team's showdown with the Warriors to reflect on a more personal side of the accolade.

"I knew his Mum and Dad before Ben was born," he said. "The connection of my Australian background coaching over there and coaching his Dad, and then coaching his son who is now an NBA All-Star, the circumstances of all that happening are so complex, and I'm just extremely happy for him and his Mum and Dad as well."

For Brown, the selection of Simmons and star Joel Embiid, off to his second All-Star Game, is further vindication for the 76ers' long-term plan of drafting and developing young talent.

"It's an example of what we're trying to do with the development of our young players," he said. "I think the exciting thing is really how young they are and how much growth Joel and Ben have in them, that's the most exciting thing."