Ben Simmons follows footsteps of these Aussies, Kiwis in NBA

Ben Simmons' journey from Australia to the NBA draft (3:13)

Chris Broussard catches up with Ben Simmons, the potential No. 1 pick in the draft, to talk about his unique path to the NBA and how his father, who was a professional basketball player in Australia, influenced him. (3:13)

Ben Simmons stands in the spotlight of the basketball world heading into Thursday's NBA draft.

Expected to be the No. 1 pick by the Philadelphia 76ers, the Melbourne native is the latest player to show the quality of hoops being played in Australia and New Zealand.

Thon Maker of Perth is also projected to be a first-round selection. Maker was born in the Sudan but grew up in Western Australia. Two other Australians, Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut and Cleveland Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova just squared off in the NBA Finals. Center Steven Adams, born and raised in New Zealand, reached the Western Conference finals with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

With the continued emergence of players with roots in Australia and New Zealand, it's worth revisiting their NBA draft history.

Andrew Bogut

Drafted: First round, No. 1, Milwaukee, 2005

Birthplace: Melbourne

Specs: Center, 7-0, 260 pounds

Amateur: Bogut was born and grew up in Melbourne and attended the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. He played two seasons at Utah and averaged 20.4 points and 12.2 rebounds as a sophomore. He was widely lauded as the top collegiate player that season, winning the Wooden, Naismith and AP Player of the Year awards.

NBA: A solid big man for 11 seasons with the Bucks and Warriors, Bogut has been a starter his entire career. He combines defensive skills with an ability to score when necessary, although offense hasn't been a priority on a potent Warriors roster. In seven seasons with Milwaukee, he averaged 12.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. Those numbers have dipped to 6.3 and 8.3, respectively, with Golden State. More importantly, Bogut has won a championship and reached the Finals twice by assimilating with stars Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson.

Quotable: "Basketball is a global game, just like soccer is a global game. You see the Manu Ginobilis and Yao Mings of the world. We can play the game in every country." -- Bogut at the 2005 draft

Did you know? Bogut is of Croatian descent, and one of his favorite players as a teenager was Croatian star Toni Kukoc. Bogut emulated the playing style of Kukoc, a 6-foot-10 forward with good passing and ballhandling skills. In 2005-06, the two were teammates in Milwaukee when Bogut was a rookie and Kukoc was in his final NBA season.

Kyrie Irving

Drafted: First round, No. 1, Cleveland, 2011

Birthplace: Melbourne

Specs: Point guard, 6-3, 193 pounds

Amateur: Irving was born in Victoria while his American father, Drederick, played for the Bulleen Boomers of the South East Australian Basketball League. Irving holds dual American and Australian citizenship but has lived in the United States since age 2. He played one season at Duke University.

NBA: In five seasons, Irving has averaged 20.8 points and 5.5 assists per game and appeared in three All-Star Games.

Quotable: "I didn't have any doubts about going to No. 1. I was looking to the organization to pick who they felt was the right choice." -- Irving at the 2011 draft

Did you know? Irving's godfather is longtime NBA guard Rod Strickland. Drederick Irving and Strickland were close friends growing up in New York City.

Dante Exum

Drafted: First round, No. 5, Utah, 2014

Birthplace: East Melbourne

Specs: Point guard, 6-6, 190 pounds

Amateur: Exum grew up in Melbourne, where his American-born father played in the National Basketball League. He attended high school in Canberra while training at the Australian Institute of Sport. Exum competed for Australia at the FIBA U-17 (2012) and U-19 (2013) world championships. He then opted to enter the 2014 draft rather than play college basketball in the U.S.

NBA: As a rookie in 2014-15, Exum averaged 4.8 points and 2.4 assists while playing in all 82 games for the Jazz. He missed the 2015-16 season after suffering a torn ACL in his left knee during international competition last year. The injury will also keep him out of the 2016 Olympics.

Quotable: "I guess I'm not a mystery anymore." -- Exum at the 2014 draft

Did you know? Exum's father, Cecil, was a teammate of Michael Jordan at North Carolina in the 1980s. Cecil Exum was drafted by Denver in the ninth round in 1984 -- the draft was subsequently reduced to seven rounds in 1985, three in 1989 and the current two in 1989.

Luc Longley

Drafted: First round, No. 7, Minnesota, 1991

Birthplace: Melbourne

Specs: Center, 7-2, 260 pounds

Amateur: Although born in Melbourne, Longley grew up in Fremantle, Western Australia. He attended the Australian Institute of Sport prior to playing four years at New Mexico. He ranks No. 2 in rebounds and No. 7 in points in Lobos history.

NBA: Longley averaged 7.2 points and 4.9 rebounds in 10 NBA seasons and won three championships with Chicago, playing alongside future Hall of Famers Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman. He also played with Minnesota, Phoenix and New York.

Quotable: "I hope the people in Australia are getting footage to see how much fun this is. I'm proud because this is a first and hopefully not a last." -- Longley, after winning the 1996 championship

Did you know? Longley represented Australia in the Olympics three times and helped the Boomers to a fourth-place finish at Sydney in 2000.

Steven Adams

Drafted: First round, No. 12, Oklahoma City, 2013

Birthplace: Rotorua, New Zealand

Specs: Center, 7-0, 255 pounds

Amateur: Adams grew up in Rotorua and Wellington, New Zealand, where he trained with Kenny McFadden, an American who played and coached with the Wellington Saints pro team. Adams then attended prep school in Massachusetts and played one season of college basketball at Pittsburgh. He averaged 7.2 points and 6.3 rebounds for the Panthers and showed enough potential to become a lottery pick.

NBA: Adams has averaged 6.2 points and 6.0 rebounds in his first three pro seasons. He emerged with 10.1 points and 9.5 rebounds while playing more than 30 minutes per game this past postseason, as the Thunder reached the Western Conference finals.

Quotable: "I'm just really trying to break away for all the rest of the New Zealanders to come through and hopefully pass me." -- Adams at the 2013 draft

Did you know? One of Adams' sisters, Valerie, won the gold medal in the shot put at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

Chris Anstey

Drafted: First round, No. 18, Portland, 1997

Birthplace: Melbourne

Specs: Center, 7-0, 249 pounds

Pre-NBA: Anstey didn't begin playing basketball seriously until age 17, but he progressed rapidly. He played his first pro season with the Melbourne Tigers in 1994 at age 19. He then played three seasons with the South East Melbourne Magic, winning the NBL championship in 1996.

NBA: Anstey was selected by the Trail Blazers but traded, with cash, to Dallas minutes later in a deal for No. 15 overall pick Kelvin Cato. Anstey averaged 4.6 points and 3.1 rebounds per game in two seasons with Dallas. He then posted 6.0 points and 3.8 rebounds per game in one season with Chicago.

Quotable: "A lot of people think it's maybe an opportunity to open some eyes about a lot of other younger players here. We feel there are at least a handful of others who can make it." -- Anstey after the 1997 draft

Did you know? After the NBA, Anstey returned to Australia with the NBL's Victoria Titans and played in Russia. He ultimately reunited with the Tigers to conclude his playing career and won two more NBL championships. He later coached the Tigers as well.

David Andersen

Drafted: Second round, No. 37, Atlanta, 2002

Birthplace: Carlton, Victoria

Specs: Center, 6-11, 247 pounds

Amateur: A native of the Melbourne area, Andersen trained for three years at Australian Institute of Sport prior to turning pro with Australia's Wollongong Hawks.

NBA: Andersen averaged 4.9 points and 2.8 rebounds in 103 games over two seasons with Houston, Toronto and New Orleans. He also has played in Italy, Russia, Spain, Turkey and France during a long pro career.

Quotable: "He is a very well-rounded player who possesses good offensive skills and a very good shooting touch for a big man." -- Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, prior to the 2009-10 season

Did you know? Andersen played for Australia in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics. He's a finalist to play for the Boomers at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Nathan Jawai

Drafted: Second round, No. 41, Indiana, 2008

Birthplace: Sydney

Specs: Center, 6-8, 280 pounds

Pre-NBA: Jawai grew up in the remote town of Bamaga on the Cape York peninsula of Queensland and didn't begin playing basketball until age 15. He went to high school in Cairns, trained at the Australian Institute of Sport for a year and played briefly at a Texas junior college. Jawai turned pro in 2007 with the NBL's Cairns Taipans, where he earned the nickname "Baby Shaq" and was named the league's rookie of the year.

NBA: Shortly after being drafted by the Pacers, Jawai was traded to Toronto. He played in six games for the Raptors in 2008-09. He moved on to Minnesota the following season, where he appeared in 39 games. After several seasons playing in Europe, Jawai returned to the NBL with the Perth Wildcats in 2015. He reunited with the Taipans by agreeing to a three-year contract earlier this month, a deal the team hailed as "the biggest signing in club history."

Quotable: "He's the best talent that's come into our league in a long, long time. ... If Nathan Jawai was a senior at a university somewhere in the U.S.A., he'd be a first-round draft pick." -- six-time NBL Coach of the Year Brian Goorjian in 2007

Did you know? Jawai was the first indigenous Australian to play in the NBA.

Sean Marks

Drafted: Second round, No. 44, New York, 1998

Birthplace: Auckland, New Zealand

Specs: Power forward, 6-10, 250 pounds

Amateur: Marks attended Rangitoto College in Auckland prior to playing at California, where he was a teammate of future No. 3 overall pick Shareef Abdur-Rahim and future NFL star Tony Gonzalez. Marks averaged 9.8 points and 7.6 rebounds as a senior in 1997-98.

NBA: Marks was drafted by the Knicks but traded the following day to Toronto. He was the first Kiwi to reach the NBA and played for the Raptors, Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns, New Orleans Hornets and Portland Trail Blazers during a 12-year NBA career. He was a member of the Spurs team that won the 2004-05 championship.

Quotable: "I'll always be proud of my NBA career and winning a ring, but there's still nothing like walking out for an opening ceremony at the Olympics, wearing your country's flag on your chest." -- Marks in 2011, on representing New Zealand at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics

Did you know? Marks was named general manager of the Brooklyn Nets in February. He previously served as an assistant general manager and assistant coach with San Antonio.

Cameron Bairstow

Drafted: Second round, No. 49, Chicago, 2014

Birthplace: Brisbane, Queensland

Specs: Power forward, 6-9, 250 pounds

Amateur: Bairstow trained at the Australian Institute for Sport and played four years at New Mexico. With the Lobos, he led the Mountain West Conference with 20.4 points per game and a .556 field-goal percentage as a senior in 2013-14.

NBA: Bairstow played in 18 games during each of his two seasons with the Bulls. He was traded to Detroit earlier this month and is on the 2016 Olympic roster for Australia.

Quotable: "He taught me a lot and really helped me last season. He has been key to me during this process. He has been giving me a lot of advice." -- Bairstow on former Aussie NBA star Luc Longley in 2014

Did you know? Bairstow was the third Aussie to play at New Mexico, following in the footsteps of Longley and Ryan Kersten.

Patty Mills

Drafted: Second round, No. 55, Portland, 2009

Birthplace: Canberra, Australian Capital Territory

Specs: Point guard, 6-0, 185 pounds

Amateur: Mills is yet another player who competed at the Australian Institute of Sport prior to attending college in the U.S. In two seasons at Saint Mary's, Mills averaged 16.4 points and 3.7 assists per game. At age 20, he played for Australia at the 2008 Olympics and led the Boomers with 14.2 points per game -- including a team-high 20 points in a quarterfinal loss to the U.S.

NBA: Mills played his first two pro seasons with the Trail Blazers before joining San Antonio in 2011. He established himself as a key player off the bench for the Spurs, with whom he won the NBA championship in 2014. In seven NBA seasons, he has averaged 7.5 points and 1.9 assists per game.

Quotable: "This means a lot to indigenous Australians and all young Australians. I take it upon myself to be a role model and I stand strong to represent them in a good manner." -- Mills after the 2009 draft

Did you know? Mills' uncle Danny Morseay is an NBL Hall of Fame member who represented the Boomers at the 1980 and 1984 Olympics.

Undrafted Aussies and Kiwis in the NBA

Aron Baynes: Baynes was born in Gisborne, New Zealand, but grew up in Cairns, Queensland, and represents Australia in international competition. He played collegiately at Washington State and went on to play three seasons with San Antonio, winning the NBA title alongside Patty Mills in 2014. He played the 2015-16 season with Detroit.

Mark Bradtke: Bradtke was born in Noarlunga Centre, South Australia, but attended high school in Redcliffe, Queensland. He trained at the Australian Institute of Sport and played several seasons in the NBL before going to the NBA at age 26. He played 36 games with Philadelphia in 1996-97.

Matthew Dellavedova: Dellavedova played four years at Saint Mary's, averaging 14.2 points and 5.6 assists per game. The native of Maryborough, Victoria, wasn't identified among 60 draft picks in 2013, which in retrospect looks like a definite oversight when considering the list of players who were selected that year.

Andrew Gaze: One of the first Australian players to make a name for himself in the U.S., Gaze played for the Seton Hall team that reached the championship game of the 1989 NCAA tournament. The Melbourne native played briefly in the NBA with the Spurs and Washington Bullets.

Shane Heal: Melbourne native Heal played several seasons in the NBL before heading to the NBA at age 25. He played 43 games with Minnesota in 1996-97 and returned to the NBA for six games with San Antonio in 2003-04.

Joe Ingles: Ingles is yet another Australian Institute of Sport product. Prior to the NBA, the native of Adelaide, South Australia, played in the NBL and in Spain and Israel. He's now a teammate of Exum with Utah and has averaged 4.6 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.7 assists in his first two NBA seasons.

Kirk Penney: The native of Auckland, New Zealand, played four seasons at Wisconsin, winning two Big Ten championships. He then played briefly with Miami and the Los Angeles Clippers. Penney later played in Germany, Israel, Lithuania, Spain and Turkey, and he recently signed with the NBL's New Zealand Breakers.

Luke Schenscher: A native of Hope Forest, South Australia, Schenscher trained for three years at the Australian Institute of Sport. He then played four years at Georgia Tech, reaching the championship game of the 2004 NCAA tournament. He played briefly in the NBA with Chicago and Portland.