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Freshman center Henry Sims

Freshman forward Henry Sims was back in his Copley Hall dorm room early last Tuesday morning, chatting on the phone with his girlfriend and watching SportsCenter.

When Top Plays came on with 10 minutes left in the show, Sims had an inkling that he might see a replay of the jaw-dropping put-back dunk he’d thrown down earlier in the evening against then-No. 13 Notre Dame, but he wasn’t quite sure what number it would be.

“Somebody told me three, somebody told me five, I was excited to see what number I was,” Sims said later in the week. “But when I saw it, I was ready to see it again. I wanted to stay up till 3:50 to see it again.”

For Sims, the chance to see himself on ESPN was more than just a reason to stay up late and an exciting story to tell his family and friends. Seeing his contributions highlighted on national TV was a vivid reminder of what he can bring to the No. 12 Hoyas.

“I think it helps my confidence a lot,” Sims said. “I think it helps my confidence in the coaches’ [eyes]. I’m not sure. But it made me feel like I was in there doing something more than just catching the ball and passing it. It made me feel like I was actually involved in the offense and involved in helping the team a lot more.”

Sims’ ability to contribute will be crucial to Georgetown this week, as the Hoyas prepare to take on No. 8 Syracuse tomorrow night and No. 3 Duke on Saturday. While a few weeks ago it may have seemed unreasonable for Georgetown to expect Sims to be a key cog this soon, the 6-foot-10 native of Baltimore has shown over the past two games – the loss to the Fighting Irish and Saturday’s win over Providence – that it may be too soon to count him out.

The season started slowly for No. 30. He played just two minutes in the Hoyas’ season-opening win against Jacksonville, missing his only shot. In Georgetown’s more lopsided win against Drexel, Sims saw 19 minutes and scored his first collegiate bucket, a layup off of a pass from classmate Greg Monroe.

But, Sims also missed three long three-point attempts and dropped a pass that would have led to an easy layup in that contest.

In the Hoyas’ first early-season test, against No. 12 Tennessee at the Old Spice Classic, Sims was left wide open for a three halfway through the first period and missed badly. A minute later, he made a beeline cut from the corner, received a pass in the post, and airballed what could have been a game-tying layup. Two minutes after that, Sims attempted to make a needle-threading bounce pass through the paint, but tossed the ball straight to the Volunteers.

So it went for Sims throughout the non-conference slate. As a result, Sims did not play against then-No. 15 Memphis or then-No. 2 Connecticut, and received just one minute of action against then-No. 3 Pittsburgh.

“It’s a freshman thing,” senior guard Jessie Sapp said recently of Sims’s struggles. “Being a freshman and not really in the rotation all the time, once you get in, you don’t really know what to do. It happened to me freshman year, it happened to a couple of us freshman year, so it’s just jitters right now.”

But with the big slam dunk against Notre Dame, things have started to turn around. That tough road loss also saw Sims grab two rebounds and keep several others alive for his teammates to control. Against the Irish, Sims displayed a tenacity and toughness on the glass that he had not shown previously.

“What I liked about him most importantly in the Notre Dame game is that he was aggressive at both ends of the floor, not just offensively,” sophomore guard Chris Wright said. “I’m glad he got that tip dunk `cause I shot an awful shot.”

“Henry has always been a high energy guy for us. He just played hard when we needed him to,” Monroe said. “You come in, get some good minutes against a good team on the road, it would help anybody’s confidence. I think just him getting more comfortable will help our team get better.”

Early on, it seemed as if there was no three-point shot Sims would not take. After shooting 2-for-10 in the Hoyas’ nonconference games, Sims has not attempted a long ball in Big East play. Indeed, he has moved more on offense and shown a newfound willingness to take the ball to the basket.

“They started me out on the wing,” Sims said. “Coming here is my first time playing out on the three-point line and so I got a little happy, I guess you can say. I’ve calmed down now and I’ve adjusted to my game and when I have to play on the wing, I’ll play on the wing.”

“Offense is going to take a bit of time in college because you have to get adjusted to a lot of different things,” Wright said. “Guys are so much bigger, stronger, faster, and also with the shot clock you’re kind of just on edge.”

ost of all, since his SportsCenter moment, Sims has seemed more confident and comfortable.

“He doesn’t have that deer in the headlights look anymore,” Wright said.

Against Providence, junior forward and leading scorer DaJuan Summers got into foul trouble early. In his absence, Sims played admirably, tallying five points, two rebounds and a block. Had he converted a few more easy layups, he could have had closer to 10 points.

“We got a big, big boost today with [Sims and classmate Jason Clark] in there,” Head Coach John Thompson III said after the game. “They are getting more comfortable and everyone else is getting more comfortable and confident in them when they are in the game.”

For the first time in a while, Georgetown enjoyed a commanding rebounding advantage against the Friars. If the Hoyas are to make that a trend, they’ll need Sims to keep improving.

“I think I can because in high school, I was a big rebounder,” he said. “It’s different now, strength wise, but I think I can contribute rebounding-wise to the team, most definitely.”

“Henry helping us rebound – that would be a big help,” Monroe said. “We need to get a lot more rebounds.”

As Sims alluded to, his strength – or relative lack thereof – has thus far been a hindrance. Whereas Monroe stepped onto the Hilltop already a physical specimen, Sims appeared to lack the requisite bulk.

“It’s a big difference from high school to the Big East,” Sims said. “I’ve gotten bigger but I’m still not to the point where I can compete with every single person down low, but I’m working on that now. Everyone we’ve played so far, from the point guard down to the center, has been big. There haven’t been any little people yet, everybody is big, so I’m working on myself so I can be one of those people.”

Sims’ transition to Georgetown has been far easier off the court. With the help of Monroe and Clark, as well as the active support system the basketball team has in place, Sims says he has had few difficulties adjusting to college life.

“It hasn’t been hard at all,” Sims said. “It hasn’t been as hard as other people told me. The transition has been easy and smooth and I think it’s due to Coach [John] Thompson [III] and our academic advisor for helping me with the transition, and my parents, and the other players as well.”

“We’re together a lot. Me, him and Jason – all three of the freshmen – really spend a lot of time together,” Monroe said. “We’re just growing up together; we spend a lot of time off the court, meeting a lot of people on campus. It’s been fun, it’s been real fun.”

Sims will have another opportunity to show the progress he has made when the Hoyas and arch-rival Orange tip off tomorrow evening at 7:30 p.m. at Verizon Center.

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