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Poly basketball star Demetrius Mims has big goals set for now and later

It’s nothing for Poly boys basketball star Demetrius Mims to hop into his car at 2 a.m. and head to the gym for a workout.

It’s not that he’s restless and can’t sleep, and it doesn’t stop him from waking up at 6:30 every morning, full of energy and ready to make the most of another day.

For Mims, a four-year starter at guard who has grown side by side with the Poly program, the training sessions in the wee hours are just one of many things he does to help reach his full potential.

“I just want to be great and try to work every day on little things,” he said. “Every time I step on the court, I want to show that I’m the best player.”

Now 6 feet 6 and 185 pounds, with a Baltimore City title, Class 3A state title and All-Metro honors on his resume, Mims came to Poly as a freshman 3 inches shorter and 35 pounds lighter with confidence and promise.

It was then that he began to take seriously the sport he grew up playing. Averaging 18.8 points per game this season with the No. 5 Engineers (10-5), he could become the program’s all-time leading scorer. With 1,262 points going into Friday’s game against Edmondson, he’s 230 points behind 1996 grad John McClean’s mark of 1,492.

His potential and development earned him a scholarship to play at Division I Long Beach State next season, and he’s not shy about his plans to make basketball his professional career one day.

“Basketball means the world to me,” said Mims, who maintains a 3.6 GPA at Poly. “I want this to be my job one day and make money playing for whoever I play for in the future. At the same time, it’s not really going to feel like a job for me because it’s what I want to do. It doesn’t matter how much I make, but as long as I get to play the game professionally, it’s going to feel like a big accomplishment because this is what I want to do.”

Sam Brand, Poly’s eighth-year coach, has seen all the hard work Mims has put in to become one of the area’s most complete players. He doesn’t dare doubt his ambition.

“I know there’s a lot of people that hear about Demetrius talk about playing in the NBA and laugh about it, but I believe in him, I truly do,” he said. “I see the way he’s working — other people see it here, too — and I know that that leads to greatness. So I won’t put a cap on him, and he allows us not to put a cap on our greatness as a team.”

Poly had never been considered a basketball power until a recent surge and it coincided with Mims coming aboard. A capable scorer from the start of his high school career, he helped the Engineers win their first Baltimore City Division I title game during his sophomore year and then their first state title last year. Along the way, he has methodically improved other facets of his game.

It takes Brand some time to go over all of Mims’ improvements. As a scorer, Mims has become more efficient with his 3-point shooting, while maintaining a fine midrange jumper and being able to use both hands around the basket. On defense, he’s able to match up against any player and can protect the rim.

With the graduation of fellow All-Metro standout De’Vondre Perry, who now plays at Temple, Mims has welcomed the responsibility of becoming the Engineers’ unquestioned leader. In addition to his scoring ability, he averages 5.4 rebounds and two assists and sets the tone in the classroom as well.

“He has slowed his pace down and you can see the game has slowed down for him — less turnovers, less mistakes and he picks his spots better,” Brand said. “He’s become an unbelievable all-around scorer but an even better basketball player.”

With Perry graduated, Mims sets the tone for this year’s team with high energy, louder words and a fine example in the classroom. Fellow senior guard Seth Jones sees it every day from his teammate.

“He’s really passionate about the game,” Jones said. “He really loves it, and you can tell the way he competes every day in practice and during the games, that really helps everybody.”

Mims says basketball drives him. Every morning, he thinks about how he can become better on and off the court. A better man. A better leader. A better player.

For him, success on the basketball court is a never-ending quest. As for his high school career at Poly, his time quickly coming to an end, there’s still so much left to be accomplished.

More important are the championships left to be won. After the Engineers won the City title his sophomore year, their coming-out party, they reached No. 1 in The Baltimore Sun’s Top 15 poll only to fall to Woodlawn in the region playoffs — the toughest loss of Mims’ career.

Last year, the Engineers appear primed to repeat as City champions. Instead, Patterson knocked them off for the City crown, but they were able to regroup to add their coveted first state crown.

The Engineers are in the mix this season with No. 4 Dunbar and No. 12 Lake Clifton for one of the two spots in the City title game and poised to defend their 3A state crown.

What would if feel like winning both titles this season?

“To win both … it would just be great,” Mims said. “This is my last year playing high school basketball, so I want to go out with all the championships we can possibly get. I want to get my city championship and I want to get another state championship ring. Those rings look so good on your finger.”

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