The Mystery: Henry Sims

This is the ninth in a series previewing the 2010-2011 Hoyas.  For a complete look at this year’s team, go here.

The already-tired storyline running through nearly every preview of Georgetown concerns how much the Hoyas will lean on their guards, and how inexperienced their front court is.  One name rarely seen in such previews, but crucial for understanding the Hoyas’ uncertainty on the interior, is Henry Sims, Georgetown’s 6’10”, 232-lb. junior big man.

Sims arrived at Georgetown as the 32nd-ranked player in his class, with praise for his rebounding presence, shot-blocking, and face-up jumper.  Everyone knew that Sims was a work in progress, but his potential, as ESPN put it, was limitless.  In his freshman season, Sims was given about 10 minutes per game, taking a back seat to his classmate Greg Monroe.  Sims was capable of occasional brilliance, hauling in rebounds or coming up with a timely basket or blocked shot.  Mostly, though, Sims’ first year was, as his recruiting evaluations suggested, about potential.  The pieces were there — the long arms, the sometimes-smooth jumper, and the energy plays — but Sims was still learning the game, and often seemed unsure of himself.

Heading into last season, there were plenty of minutes to be had in the post.  DaJuan Summers had departed, leaving a spot to be filled by Sims and Julian Vaughn.  Georgetown’s success was thought (particularly by this blogger) to depend on Sims’ development.  After all, Vaughn was a year older and had shown no more development, either in his freshman year at Florida State or in his first year on the Hilltop. It was reasonable to expect that, if Georgetown was to succeed, Sims would have to make the leap.

Georgetown, despite an up-and-down season, did succeed, but it was Vaughn, not Sims, who manned Monroe’s flank.  If anything, Sims regressed in his sophomore year.  His minutes decreased by a third, and, accordingly, his production did, too, as he averaged just 1.4 ppg, 1.4 rpg, and nothing much else to speak of.  Rather than vying with Vaughn as Monroe’s sidekick in the post, Sims was usurped by Jerrelle Benimon, a relatively unknown recruit whose contributions to the team are somewhat in dispute. Even Sims’s averages overstate his performance — in conference, Sims notched a total of 8 points, 14 rebounds, and 3 assists, and didn’t take off his warm-ups for five games.  He could contribute on the defensive end, rebounding opponents’ misses at a rate greater than any Hoya save Monroe, and blocking shots at the highest rate on the team, but too often seemed lost on offense and overwhelmed by more aggressive players.  This summer, Sims continued largely on the same path.  What brief evaluations are available of Sims’s Kenner League performances (here and here) reinforcethat Sims is a proficient shot-blocker who is capable of flashes of aptitude on offense, but too often gives too much ground on defense.

Sims’ lack of development may be traceable to his demeanor.  He seems like a very likable guy.  He doesn’t appear to have become surly with his decreased minutes, but instead happily assumed the towel-waving, good teammate role.  But while that attribute may make him a good bench-warmer, it won’t necessarily suffice against the likes of Pitt, Syracuse, and West Virginia.

As Georgetown enters this season, the coaching staff faces a familiar problem: how to fill the minutes down low.  Julian Vaughn is a relatively known quantity, providing defensive hustle, aggressive rebounding, and competent low-post play.  Even with Vaughn shifting to a more prominent role (and assuming more minutes), there will be plenty of room for another Hoya down low.  But which Hoya bigs play, and for how long, remains to be seen.  Nate Lubick could be a starter by mid-season, or still may be one year of polish and familiarity away.  Jerrelle Benimon (who fits between a wing and a post) may have developed his game to match his energy, or still may inspire as many winces as cheers.  Moses Ayegba may become a reliable defensive presence in a secondary role, or may be too undeveloped to see much, if any, action.

Sims, although senior to his competitors for minutes, is no more certain.  Perhaps he’s developed with age, and can be counted on for a solid 15 minutes per game.  Perhaps he can deliver an effective 5 points, 5 rebounds, and a block, backing up Vaughn inside.  But fewer fans will be counting on it.  While Sims will always engender good feelings because of his good nature, his funny jokes on Twitter about Jason Clark, and his enthusiasm despite decreased minutes, whether he develops into a reliable piece of the Georgetown puzzle remains to be seen.

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