As LSU basketball tips off in its biggest game in more than a decade, it does so just a day after the six-month anniversary of the killing of teammate Wayde Sims.

The junior forward died in a shooting on the night of Sept. 28, 2018, during an altercation near Southern University's campus outside a fraternity party.

Baton Rouge police released videos showing the altercation, which led to the arrest of 20-year-old Dyteon Simpson, who is awaiting trial.

WHO WAS WAYDE SIMS?

The 20-year-old Baton Rouge native was in his third year at LSU after attending University High.

Sims was a kinesiology major and started 10 games last season. He was likely to be a key rotation player for LSU this season, in which it won the school's first Southeastern Conference regular season title in a decade. 

Vanderbilt LSU basketball

LSU forward Wayde Sims (44) defends against Vanderbilt forward Jeff Roberson (11) during a game on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018 in Baton Rouge, La.

Sims was the Louisiana Gatorade Player of the Year in the 2014-'15 season for U-High and won three state titles (2014-16) in his time there. 

Wayde Sims' father, Wayne, played four seasons for legendary LSU coach Dale Brown from 1987-91 and is one of only nine players in program history to participate in four NCAA tournaments.

Sims said he chose LSU because he wanted to stay close to home. "This team made me feel like part of a family," he said of his choice, according to LSU's website. 

His favorite basketball player was LeBron James. His favorite athlete was former LSU star Odell Beckham Jr. 

“Everybody on the team loved him,” now-suspended LSU coach Will Wade said at the time. “He was the team jokester, the team prankster. He always had a smile and was bopping around. He got us going in practice."

In December, LSU and Sims' parents launched a campaign to raise at least $100,000 to help students defray the costs of emotional support dogs like Sims' beloved dog Buddha. 

The Wayde Forever 44 Emotional Support Dog Fund will be used to help students with the often hidden costs of owning an emotional support dog, including vet fees, deposits at apartments, boarding when students travel and other expenses.

"We also hope this fund can bring awareness for students to know that it's ok to admit they are experiencing anxiety," Fay Sims said.


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WHO IS DYTEON SIMPSON?

Simpson, who has since confessed in the shooting and said he is "totally remorseful," is from Baker, Louisiana.  

Simpson, 20, had nearly no criminal history before the shooting aside from an arrest for violating curfew during flooding in 2016. 

Residents of St. Francisville who knew Simpson during his childhood said a local retired minister and his wife raised Simpson from the time he was a baby. He spent his childhood living with the couple in a mobile home just off Solitude Road, which runs into Tunica Trace north of St. Francisville.

Residents said the man who raised Simpson was Leon Hargrove, a retired minister and U.S. Army veteran from St. Francisville who died in 2010, according to his obituary.

"All I know is he was a good boy, always coming and going from church and Sunday school," said one woman who declined to give her name. She said she was shocked at the news of Simpson's arrest. "I can't imagine what must've happened to him because he was not raised to do something like that."

Simpson confessed to punching Sims' friend before the fatal shooting. 

Simpson was charged with a count of second-degree murder and will face a mandatory sentence of life in prison if convicted. He was given a bond amount of $350,000 and has a bail reduction hearing scheduled for June 10. 

“We’re just here to see justice served,” Sims’ father, Wayne, said as he and his wife, Fay, left a 19th Judicial District courtroom moments after Dyteon Simpson was charged by an East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury.

WAYDE SIMS TRIBUTE/CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON

Sims' death occurred just before LSU's team was set to begin practicing for a season that ultimately became one of its most successful in team history. 

From his image splashed across the Pete Maravich Assembly Center's scoreboard to his parents helping to cut down the nets after his team claimed the SEC regular season title, the memory of Wayde Sims has been ever-present throughout the season. 

“The LSU family is real,” Will Wade said after a tribute after LSU's season-opener against Southeastern Louisiana. “The support our program has gotten has been absolutely unmatched. The Sims I know feel the say way. We can’t say thank you enough for all of your support as we continue to work through this tragic accident.”

Said LSU President F. King Alexander: "We are stunned and shaken. To say we are grief-stricken is an understatement. Wayde was a beloved member of the LSU community whose leadership was treasured by his coach and his teammates. I knew him personally and liked him tremendously. The void left by his passing will be immense, and we ask that you keep his family in your prayers.”

Sims has also had his jersey retired at University High.

Wayde Sims jersey

Wayde Sims' University High basketball jersey was retired Thursday, Nov 29 at U-High's gym.

"Wayde always had a smile on his face, and he was great with kids, including my kids. What a terrible loss … this is tragic,” said his former coach Joe Spencer.

LSU basketball wore a jersey patch this season in honor of Sims, and his locker was left untouched

After helping to cut down the nets after LSU clinched the SEC title, Wayne and Fay Sims were again honored at halftime of the Tigers' tournament game against Florida. They walked to midcourt, and represented Wayde as he was named LSU's SEC Basketball Legend for 2019. 

The Tigers finished the regular season 27-6 (16-2 SEC) and rose as high as No. 10 in the Associated Press rankings, but fell to Florida in that quarterfinal matchup. They earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, defeating No. 14-seeded Yale in the first round for their first tournament victory since 2009. They continued that run two days later, winning a thriller against 6-seeded Maryland with a last-second shot by star guard Tremont Waters. 

Players and fans gave a touching tribute to Sims during the game. Players chanted "44", the number worn by Sims, during a team huddle when the team had 44 points. Fans in attendance also chanted the number several times throughout the game. TV cameras also spotted freshman forward Emmitt Williams holding up four fingers on each hand during the game. 

"He's always with us," Waters said. "We just knew we had to get this win for him.”

The win vaulted LSU to its first Sweet 16 appearance since 2006. LSU tips of with No. 2 seeded Michigan State at 6:09 p.m. in Washington, D.C.'s Capitol One Arena (CBS).