WASHINGTON — — Here's Henry Sims, sweating under the Georgetown logo at the Verizon Center. Sims, slapping high fives with Wizards assistant coach Sam Cassell after his workout for Washington. Sims, talking about the 16 or so teams he is working out for. Saying he doesn't want to think about which team is going to draft him, just that it's a blessing someone likely will.
That Henry Sims, now projected as a second-round draft pick into the NBA.
"Two years ago, this wouldn't be the case," Sims said. "But I think this is just a testament to my hard work."
Hard work. Sims had to work hard to make it to Georgetown, for sure, but only as much as a 6-foot-10 giant has to work to outscore the Lilliputians.
"He's 6-10, 6-11, there was always playing time for him," said Sims' mother, Brenda. "He didn't have to do much anything but show up, and he played."
It's been that way since Pat Clatchey coached him in high school, when he had the size-defying ability to pass the ball but was needed to be a shoot-first-pass-second scorer. Really, it has been that way ever since his first church basketball coach turned in the pews one Sunday and, hallelujah, saw this young and rather altitudinous figure rising up to pray like a gift from the basketball god himself.
But a funny thing happens once you make it out of the church, out of Baltimore, out of the AAU circuit and you land not just in any conference but in the Big East and the opponents aren't so small anymore. You think you know what it means to work, but really, you have no idea.
Sims soon got the idea. Problem was, he didn't act on it.
"You hear stories about the player that's the first to get to the gym and the last to leave," said Georgetown coach John Thompson III. "Henry was not that guy for three years.
"And then all of a sudden going into senior year, he decided to commit himself to his craft and commit himself to basketball, and he saw the results."
Brenda says it started in the summer before his senior year, when the boy who left for Georgetown dreaming of the NBA returned a man who no longer loved the game.
"When he came home that summer, he lay around in his room, and he just revisited why he loved basketball, why he played basketball," Brenda said. "Because he said also that he just fell out of love with the game of basketball. So he came home, he got refocused and he realized that he really did love this game, and he rededicated himself and worked hard in the offseason."
That work translated into a statistical explosion senior year. Sims averaged nearly 12 points (his career high in any game in his first three years just 12 points) and 3.5 assists — a hefty total for a big man. In fact, Sims is likely the best passing big in this year's draft.
Sims said that some attribute his ability to distribute to Thompson's offensive system at Georgetown — where Sims was frequently able to pass out of the post. So far, Sims has worked out for 13 NBA teams, and he thinks he has shown that he has play-making ability outside of the set offense, that he can put the ball on the floor and be effective.
Aran Smith, president of NBADraft.net, projects Sims as a mid-second rounder. Like others who have raised concerns about Sims' rebounding ability, Smith spoke of Sims' limited athleticism and his lack of size for an NBA center.
Smith said he liked Sims' passing ability, but also remarked that it's difficult to tell in the Georgetown system how effective he will be as a distributor in the NBA.
"He's extremely unorthodox, and he's a difficult player to assess just because of being in the Georgetown system," Smith said. "But [he is a] hard-working kid and an overachiever, and he should get drafted.
"Nobody thought Roy Hibbert could be as good as he's become, and there's a real association that teams make with teams and where kids come from. And if Hibbert has done as well as he has coming from that system, it helps those guys."
Both Thompson, and Clatchey, Sims' high school coach, see Sims' ability as more than a product of the Hoyas' system. The extra touches in the post help, but as Thompson said simply, "He sees."
"More often than not, that skill set or that attribute is attributed to guards," Thompson said. "But Henry is a big guy who can make the guys around him better."
Clatchey said he often watched Georgetown games at home and would be left in awe of a pass Sims made.
"He threw some passes that I was just like, 'Oh wow,' " Clatchey said. "Just a beautiful read, the timing, puts it right there in your hands."
Indeed, if there's one thing Sims seems to have mastered, it's timing. One more lackluster year at Georgetown, and he'd likely be preparing to play overseas, or looking for a job in a different field (not that he's unprepared for that: he did make a run for Georgetown's student government last year).
Now, Thompson likes to think of Sims as the model of a college athlete, a champion of maturation.
"Everybody wants a quick fix now, everyone wants to be that one-and-done, that two-and-done, and Henry was someone where it was an evolution," Thompson said. "Slowly he got better and better and started to understand more, to where his senior year he had a terrific year and he positioned himself, hopefully knock on wood, but I think he's positioned himself to have a pretty good career in the NBA."