Monday, February 23, 2015

Maryland In Aggressive Pursuit Of Sima


A newfound toughness in the post and vastly improved mid-range game has elevated the high-major stock of Yankuba Sima.

Maryland, Arizona, and Louisville all have been in persistent pursuit of the 6-foot-11 forward/center. Yankuba dropped 15 points  (7-for-9 FG), ripped down six rebounds, blocked a shot and manipulated about four others during a 15-minute span of Elev8's 93-90 resume win over Hargrave Military Academy earlier this month.

"Maryland, Arizona, and Louisville have shown the most love," said Sima, who has packed muscle onto a leafy frame while subscribing to the role of rim protector.

Maryland has offered the behemoth, who has provided a high-efficiency scorer and sturdy rebounding presence for Elev8 the past two months.

Terps head coach Mark Turgeon and assistant Dustin Clark have hounded Sima at a steady pace.

Maryland could certainly benefit from a big, defensive-minded forward to border 6-foot-9, 240-pound Robert Carter, 7-foot-1 Michael Cekovsky, and 6-foot-11 Damonte Dodd in the paint.

The Terps (22-5) have ripped off four of their last five heading into a scalding Feb.24 matchup against Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, the rapidly evolved Bronson Koenig and 25-2 Wisconsin.

"His top two would have to be Maryland and Arizona and Maryland has really done the most with him," said Elev8 coach Chad Myers, adding that Mark Turgeon and staff have seen Sima play on four occasions this season.

The 16th best player in Florida according to the 247 Composite Rankings, Sima's ability to finish with contact and play with more confidence has spurred a quick-hit uptick in production.

Originally a considerably raw project, Sima has suddenly earned plaudits from his teammates and the in-house practice competition.

"When he first got here he was off to a bit of a slow start," said Elev8's transcendent 6-foot-5 wing Kobie Eubanks.

"He was a bit slow and not used to taking contact down low. The more he worked out and the more he got in the gym, the more he started to impress his. On the boards he's been great. We found out he's got a lot of moves and he's got a mid-range game to him as well. He'll even step out and pop that three if he has to."

The words resonate in Sima, he of the feathery touch and a suddenly higher motor.

"I'm playing harder than before, harder than I played when I was in Europe," said Sima, who transferred in from Arlington Country Day on Dec. 15.

"My game is growing. My role is really just to protect the basket and rebound. If I can score I will, but I really need to protect the rim first and bring hustle both offensively and defensively."

Every day that is.

Sima has a fight on his hands in practice, going up against 6-foot-7 forward Leroy Butts, 6-foot-11 Shane Eberle, and 6-foot-7 forward T.J. Holeyfield out of Albuquerque, N.M.

"He's changed his body since he's been here,"  Myers said.

"The biggest advantages is he's got all those guys to go up against in practice. He's taking a constant beating everyday and it's bettered him. He feels confident, he's doing a good job of getting close to the rim and finishing."

Powering up and finishing with emphatic two-handed dunks has surely drawn more attention to Sima, who hails from Spain and averaged 12.1 boards per game in the U-18 championships.

Though he plans on visiting Arizona as soon as he can, it's clear Maryland possesses a major upper hand in his recruitment.

The aforementioned Cekovsky, currently a freshman, played alongside Sima at the Canarias Basketball Academy in Las Palmas of the Canary Islands in Spain.

His improvement hedging on ball screens, muscling for rebounds in the trenches, and those hard-to-reach boards outside of the paint have been promising.

"With those Velcro hands he snatches up anything within reach," said Elev8's Director Of Basketball Development and NBA trainer Cody Toppert.

"He's done a tremendous job simplifying his offensive game. While he has the skill-set to be a terrific pinch post, pick-and-pop big, he's done a great job keeping the game simple. Deeper and earlier post ups, one bounce hooks over both shoulders, up-and-unders to counter. Sometimes if you have too many tools you can overthink things. He has really improved."