University High’s Wayde Sims admitted he felt a wave of emotions as he read a Friday morning text message from coach Joe Spencer.
The text informed the 6-foot-6 junior that he was named the Gatorade Louisiana Boys Basketball Player of the Year for 2014-15.
“First, I was surprised,” Sims said. “But I was also really excited because, you know, this is such a big honor.”
The Gatorade award recognizes athletic excellence but also high standards of academic achievement and character on and off the court. Sims is now eligible to win the national Gatorade award that will be decided in a few weeks.
Former St. Thomas More player Trey Touchet won the award the past two seasons. Sims, who led U-High to 33-3 record and a second straight Class 3A state title, averaged 17.6 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals. He made 62.8 percent of his shots from the field and 71.3 percent of his free throws.
He was voted the Class 3A title-game Outstanding Player after scoring 27 points, grabbing 14 rebounds and dishing out two assists in the Cubs’ 77-60 victory over John Curtis last Saturday.
“The thing about Wayde is he’s so consistent,” Spencer said. “He’s a guy who averages practically a double-double. He’s always working to improve his game.
“He plays bigger than 6-6, and he’s a rebounding machine. There are things he still needs to work on, but I think the way he is able to go out on the floor and defend is going to serve him well at the next level.”
Parkview Baptist coach Brandon White told Gatorade, “(Sims) is a good basketball player that is fundamental and plays the game hard. He uses both hands really well. Wayde finished exceptionally well around the rim.
“He plays above the rim, and he can consistently make a 15-foot jump shot. Not only is he a good basketball player, but also he’s an even better person. He’s a quality young man.”
There’s also a side note to the story. Sims’ father, former LSU standout Wayne Sims, was a teammate of 1988-89 Texas Gatorade Player of the Year Shaquille O’Neal, who went on to NBA stardom, with the Tigers.
Sims carries a 3.37 GPA, and plans a college major in physical therapy.
“You’ve got to work in the classroom first before you go out on the court,” he said.
Some might see the Gatorade award as something that would add pressure for a player, but Sims sees it as motivation.
“You’ve got to get in the gym and do the work,” he said. “That’s the only way to get better.”
LSU basketball signee Ben Simmons is the Florida Gatorade winner, and Malik Newman, who has listed LSU among his five final college choices, is the Mississippi Gatorade winner.