Raider Jamal Sims Bound for Columbia University, Sets Sights on Senior Season First
Roosevelt point guard Jamal Sims has committed to play basketball in the Ivy League next fall, but has injuries to overcome and his senior year to complete first.
Of all the senior talent on the Eleanor Roosevelt boys' basketball team this year, it was point guard Jamal Sims who was the first to commit to a college program, and he sure set the bar high.
Next fall Sims will take his talents 200 miles north, where he will study and play basketball at Columbia University.
His recruitment process was fairly brisk, transpiring entirely in the off-season. After being invited to the school’s summer prospect camp by Assistant Basketball Coach Michael Murphy, it was the connection Sims felt to the coaching staff and current roster at Columbia that made his decision simple.
“I met [Assistant Coach Carlin] Hartman there and he was the one that really recruited me,” Sims said. “I felt like we connected because he came from a single-parent home too. My mother is a single parent. I just felt at home there. The teammates took me in and took me through all the steps, all the plays and everything. I felt like New York was the best fit for me.”
According to Sims, the Columbia staff is looking for him to play the same role he has etched for himself in high school: a pass-first, athletic point guard with a well-rounded skill set.
“He’s lightning quick with the ball. A lot of kids are fast, but he’s very fast with the ball,” Roosevelt Coach Brendan O’Connell said. “He’s a really big, strong guard and he shoots the ball well. He passes it really well. He’s got good vision.”
Sims gives O’Connell much of the credit for helping him to develop the skills that will benefit him in the college game.
“Coach O’Connell has taught me a whole lot since I’ve been here at Roosevelt about looking up the floor, looking to make the extra pass, and playing help defense,” Sims said. “I feel like I can take everything I learned here at Roosevelt, and take it to Columbia and make them a better team.”
In addition to basketball, and perhaps even above it, Sims is looking forward to the academic opportunities ahead of him in the Ivy League. He is currently on the honor roll at Roosevelt with a 3.8 GPA, and hopes to study biology in college.
“I’m expecting to learn a lot, because it’s Columbia. Their core curriculum is very rigorous. I feel like if I go there, the world is basically in my hands,” Sims said.
Before he can really begin thinking about dorm life, or capacity crowds at Columbia’s Levien Gymnasium, there are still two-thirds of Sims’ senior high school season to be played. And, as it turns out, his Raiders (6-3, 4-1) are in second place in the PG 4A conference behind three 5-0 teams. They have done all their damage so far though, without the help of Sims, who tore his right meniscus and partially tore his right ACL in the season’s first game on Dec. 6.
“We were playing River Hill. It happened in the fourth quarter with a minute to go,” Sims recalled. “All I remember is that I was diving for the ball, and when I hit the boy’s body, his impact turned my body…with my feet still planted on the ground, and I felt my knee pop.”
Sims elected against surgery, opting for biweekly physical therapy instead, which doctors said would give him a chance to play at least the latter part of this season. He will, however, undergo surgery following the conclusion of his high school career.
His comeback date is still unknown. He could potentially be cleared as soon as he receives his knee brace in the coming days.
“My brace takes a week and a half to get made, so hopefully [I can play] next Tuesday against Bowie,” Sims said, sparking surprised amusement from Coach O’Connell.
“Tuesday? Dude, you haven’t even run yet,” O’Connell said. “A couple weeks from now would probably be the best case scenario, but Jamal is very optimistic.”
Until he does end up back on the court in Roosevelt blue, Sims will have to continue encouraging his team from the bench, a task that he says has proven quite difficult over the past eight games.
“I didn’t think it was going to be this hard,” Sims said. “When we played Bishop McNamara, and I saw my team lose by 32, I really wished I could have been out there to help them. But all I can do is contribute by cheering them on, helping them in practice and keeping their spirits up until I get back.”
Regardless of how the remaining 15-plus games turn out for the Raiders, O’Connell is confident in what lies ahead for his point guard, and proud of what he has already accomplished.
“Athletically and body-wise, he’s ready to go in and play right away at the college level,” O’Connell said. “[Getting to attend Columbia] is awesome. I told him before, there are so many people in this school who aren’t basketball players that would be killing to go to that school. So, it’s special.”
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