The down under Wayde Sims was locked in Tuesday afternoon as he took the ball in the open court in a pick-up game. He dribbled and then ducked down under and around defenders.
There were also detailed updates on the LSU men’s basketball exhibition game in Australia available online. The 6-foot-6 senior was focused on the athletic physical education class in the University High gym.
Sims, an LSU commitment, looks both a year older and a year wiser, complete with facial hair. It is a contrast to the fresh-faced youngster who was part of an eighth-grade group that cracked the UHS lineup four years earlier.
“I traveled a couple of places … to Atlanta, New York and Las Vegas this summer,” Sims said. “We played a tournament in New Orleans, and I went to the Under Armour camp in Charlotte. I definitely saw that I’m going to have to become a guard on the next level at LSU. Most of the guys on that circuit are way taller than me.
“I know what I need to do for this team, and I’m also trying to add things to my game, like ballhandling and outside shooting. I’ve got to do both.”
Sims acknowledged knowing that LSU beat the Queensland All-Stars 91-88 earlier in the day. The son of former LSU player Wayne Sims made it clear he is content to take it one step at a time. Looking too far ahead toward LSU is simply not acceptable for Sims, one of four seniors eager to lead the Cubs to a third straight Class 3A state title.
“Winning another state title and all the things that go with it. … That’s what’s important for me,” Sims said. “There are a lot of people out there who don’t think we can do it. That makes us want to work even harder.”
Sims played a key role in the past two UHS titles. He was voted title-game MVP in 2014 and 2015. As a junior, Sims averaged 17.6 points and 9.5 rebounds, providing a steady presence and numerous rim-rattling dunks along the way. He was selected as the Gatorade Louisiana Player of the Year last spring.
This year is different. Maxwell Starwood, a 6-7 post player, graduated and moved on to Tulane. Longtime teammate Skylar Mays, the Cubs’ slick-passing point guard, is headed to Las Vegas-based Findlay Prep for his senior season. Mays recently recommitted to LSU, so the duo appears destined to be reunited next year.
Swing man DJ White also is noticeably absent. White, who hasn’t played football since junior high, is the new starting quarterback for the UHS football team.
Sims gazed out on the court and offered encouragement to teammates. Fellow seniors Jalen Johnson and Marshall Graves also have assumed leadership roles.
“He’s starting to get some guard skills that are going to help him in the long run,” Johnson said of Sims. “He’s developing those wing moves, and he’s getting to be more vocal as a leader. We want to make history at U-High, and he’s a big part of that.”
Graves added, “His physical tools are well above average. Wayde puts in a lot work to get better. I’ve told him we’re kind of like Chris Paul and Tyson Chandler when they played for the Hornets. I know I can throw the ball just about any where and know he’ll go get it. Guards like that.”
U-High coach Joe Spencer sees the improvement in Sims, but also appreciates his willingness to play the post player’s role.
“Wayde’s improved his ball-handling, and he’s capable of stepping outside to shoot the 3-pointer,” Spencer said. “He won’t be doing those things for us often, and he’s fine with that role.”
Sims says his mindset is a reflection of his parents, whom he calls “positive influences.” He carries a 3.3 GPA and wants to become a physical therapist.
“I coached Wayde when he was younger,” Wayne Sims said. “But it got to the point where I wanted someone else to do it, so I could sit back and watch. I’ve never been one of those parents who’s a screamer.
“I don’t yell at my son during games. What I will do is offer him advice on things he can do or should do. He listens, and he puts most of it to use.”
Wayne Sims said his son’s recruitment was a deliberate process.
The elder Sims and his wife, Fay, wanted their son to consider every option. But they figured their deep LSU roots would be a factor.
So when Wayde Sims wanted to commit to the Tigers in late June, he had his parents’ enthusiastic blessing.
The only thing Wayde Sims is more enthusiastic about is his senior season.
“Everybody wants to go out on top,” Sims said. “We have that chance.”