Aug. 5, 2011 ē Colorado Springs, Colo.
Baylor University rising sophomore Odyssey Sims arrived in Colorado Springs, Colo., in late May hoping to snare one of the 12 spots on the 2011 USA U19 World Championship Team. At the tail end of trials, Sims was called up to train for a session with players two to three years older. Unfazed, Sims took to the court and distributed accurate pin-point passes to the athletes vying for a spot on the 2011 USA World University Games Team.
Sims was just as impressive in that session as she was during her freshman year at Baylor, where she aided the Bears to a 34-4 record, the Big 12 Tournament and regular season titles and the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight. After averaging 13.1 ppg. and 3.1 apg. and being named an All-America honorable mention by The Associated Press and Womenís Basketball Coaches Association, Sims beat out 24 other top collegians in earning a spot on the 2011 USA World University Games squad. The team, which has been practicing at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs since July 31, will look to defend the USAís gold medal during the Aug. 14-21 womenís basketball competition at the WUGs in Shenzhen, China.
Sims canít wait to travel to China, which will be her second trip out of the country. ďI went to the Bahamas last year with Baylor. That was a great experience and Iím looking forward to another one.Ē
Some of her on-court toughness can be attributed to the pick-up games with her brothers.†
ďTheyíre very physical,Ē she said. ďSometimes I quit because they were fouling me too much. It was really competitive.Ē
So, how does she feel about being the youngest player on the floor? ďI just take it as a pride thing. Having the opportunity to be out here, this is great for me. Playing up, everyoneís two years older than me. Being the youngest, I can learn from everyone on the floor. Knowing that when I turn the ball over and make mistakes, we can learn from each other and that gets me better. I like playing up. It just feels great.Ē
She first picked up a basketball when she was about five and hanging out at one of her two older brotherís games. By eight, Sims was signed up to play organized hoops. By her senior year of high school, she had earned all-state all four years and was tabbed the WBCA/State Farm National High School Player of the Year. And by the end of her freshman year, she was on her way to earning a spot on her first USA Basketball team.
Unsure why her mom picked the name Odyssey, the moniker definitely portends a long journey and hopefully one that ends with a gold medal in China later this month.
USABasketball.com sat down with Sims to find out how training camp was going, what it was like to make the team, and other topics of conversation.
What was it like when you were named to the team?
It was exciting. Being the youngest, not knowing what to expect, it was just a great feeling. I was happy all day.
Was it a relief?
Yeah and now I can concentrate mainly on being myself. Everybodyís coming out of their comfort zone and working with one another so we can be a great team and get the gold medal.
You originally tried out for the USA U19 World Championship Team. Did you follow that team in its gold medal run?
I heard about it, but I didnít really follow it. I couldnít watch it because I didnít have FIBATV, but I heard that they won the gold. We all actually watched the championship game and I was really happy for them.
Do you feel any extra pressure to win gold, given the USAís gold medal streak?
No, we just have to go in and be ourselves. Me and Skylar (Diggins), we just have to lead the team. When things arenít going great, we have to know what to do. In pressure situations try to get the ball in the right hands, find open people and create opportunities.
How did you get started playing basketball?
My oldest brother, when he was in high school, I was really little. I just picked up a basketball and started shooting on the side a little. Then, my momma got me into an AAU team when I was eight. Iíve been playing AAU since then.
Both of your brothers played basketball in college. Did you have some competitive family games?
I donít like to play against them because they cheat a lot. But, when we did play, theyíre very physical. Sometimes I quit because they were fouling me too much. It was really competitive.
How excited are they for you being able to play for USA Basketball?
Real excited. Itís a great opportunity. Not everybody gets a chance to be here. Just to be here and know that Iím going across the water to represent my country, my team, my family, where Iím from and everything, itís just a great feeling.
Do you feel that you do belong with these older, more experienced players?
I just take it as a pride thing. Having the opportunity to be out here, this is great for me. Playing up, everyoneís two years older than me. Being the youngest, I can learn from everyone on the floor. Knowing that when I turn the ball over and make mistakes, we can learn from each other and that gets me better. I like playing up. It just feels great.
What have you been doing off the court?
We all go eat together, then everybodyís in each otherís rooms, talking, watching TV, just stuff like that.
Do you feel that getting to know each other off the court will help your on-court chemistry?
Yeah, definitely. You have to have chemistry on and off the court. If you donít have it on the court and off the court, it doesnít really help because itís going back to square one. This is a great team. Iím honored to be with this group of girls and our chemistry is getting better each day.
Youíve held a job bagging groceries. Can you tell me what you learned from that?
It was either my junior or senior year of high school and I did it for a few months. I wanted to see what it was like to have my own money, so my momma couldnít be like Ďwell, you canít buy this because itís not your money.í I just wanted to see what it felt like. I wanted to learn how to manage my money, so that when I do have a job later Iíll be able to do it and not spend it all in one place.
And were you able to manage it wisely?
At first I wasnít. I went to the mall like every other day. But, as I progressed I got better and I learned how to save my money. I would buy things in smaller increments and not in large amounts.
You said that San Diego is where youíd want to live if you could live anywhere. Why San Diego?
Itís just beautiful. California itself is beautiful. I donít know. Iím not sure, when I went there I liked the city, I liked the scenery, I liked everything.
Your favorite all-time player is Allen Iverson, have you tried to pattern your game after him?
When I started playing basketball, I wore No. 3 and he was the main reason why I picked No. 3. I felt like he was little and I was little, so I felt like it was one little person and another little person. I like how he played off screens, everything, his entire game was awesome. Since he doesnít play anymore I still go watch clips so I can learn from him.
In which track & field events did you compete in high school?
In eighth grade through my junior year, I was going to run my senior year, but I got hurt. I did the 800, mile, 4x200, 4x100, 4x400, 400, long jump Ö and thatís it.
What have you been learning out here?
This is a good group. Weíve been feeding off of each other. Everybodyís from different spots, everybodyís known for being the star on their team. Now, we have to learn to work without the ball. Thatís something thatís going to be a key factor, moving without the ball, learning that the ballís not always going to be in your hands in the game.