With the tragic loss of teammate and friend Wayde Sims still on their minds, the LSU basketball team went back to work this week.
Naturally, the emotions and feelings that came out after Sims was shot and killed Sept. 28 were still there when the Tigers got together Monday, just two days after funeral services were held for the personable player.
After seeing what his team had been through in the past week and a half, coach Will Wade said the lingering pain won’t go away anytime soon.
“It will affect us for a long time … this is not something that’s just going to go away,” he said Monday in his first interview since Sims' death. “This is going to affect our program for a long time.
“Hopefully, it’ll affect us in a good way in a sense that we remember all the good times with Wayde and all the great stuff he brought to our team and program,” Wade added. “We certainly want to honor him that way.”
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Wade said the players and coaching staff will be reminded of that daily when they see Sims’ locker, which has not been touched since his death at the request of his teammates.
“Obviously, people grieve at different stages,” he said. “We’ve got guys on our team who are at different stages right now, and we have to be cognizant of that.
Purple and gold flecked the customary funeral black at the Saturday services for LSU basketball player Wayde Sims, who was fatally shot on Sep…
“We’re still bringing in professional help to help our team, our staff and everybody move forward as best they can under the circumstances.”
Wade himself had never been through anything like that, losing a member of his team, either as an assistant coach or during his five-plus years as a head coach.
He said he relied on one of his mentors, former Clemson coach Oliver Purnell, and former Vanderbilt football coach Bobby Johnson to help him get through the painful week.
Purnell had a player die in his sleep when he was the head coach at Dayton in the mid-1990s. Johnson had two deaths on his team.
One was Southeastern Conference freshman of the year Kwane Doster, a running back who was shot to death in his hometown of Tampa, Florida, in 2004.
“You kind of go into crisis management as soon as you can and get over the initial shock yourself,” Wade said. “You have to make sure everybody else is doing as well as they can and moving forward as best they can.”
He’s still trying to make sure that happens while getting back to preseason practice, which was to officially begin just hours before Sims was killed.
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After giving the players three days off immediately after Sims’ death, Wade held only a couple of modified practices last week to go with weightlifting sessions.
But he waited until after the funeral to get back to full-scale practice sessions. LSU has two scrimmages against other teams coming up later this month with the season opener on Nov. 6 against Southeastern.
“We needed to get back into our routine,” he said. “Our guys are used to the lifting, the practicing, the film, extra shooting drills. We need to get back in our routine as best we can.
“If we lock in on our routine, it’ll certainly help us channel our energy in the present moment. If nothing else, we need to appreciate the journey this season. Getting back to practice was a tough first step, but we needed it as we move forward here.”
Wade said Sims wouldn’t want his teammates to do it any other way, especially in their spirited and intense practice sessions, which are held with music blaring from loudspeakers.
“We have to go back and be ourselves ... I don’t think Wayde would want us to change anything,” Wade said. “We had a lot of work to do before these circumstances and we’ve got more work to do now. So, we have to push forward and keep going.”
In addition to the players wanting to keep Sims’ locker intact, Wade said the athletic department is exploring ways to honor Sims this season.
“We’re still working on some things, but we’re certainly going to honor him,” Wade said. “He’s going to have a place in our program for a long time.”