True Blue Give – Donovan Sims” is Murfreesboro. He’s from Middle Tennessee.

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This is the first in a series of features showing how your support of BRAA is impacting Blue Raider student-athletes! True Blue Give 2022 will take place February 14-16, though Blue Raider fans are encouraged to show their support early here: http://bit.ly/TBG2022BRAA. MT Athletics thanks you for considering donating to the #BuildBlueNow campaign, BRAA or an athletic program of your choice.

MURFRESBORO, Tenn. — Donovan’s Sims can still hear the cheers.

When the Murfreesboro native signed on to play basketball for his hometown team, he knew what he was getting into at Murphy Center. A huge Blue Zoo Student section behind a basket, fans in the sliding bleachers on the track and a chance to go to the NCAA Tournament every year.

“It was a crazy experience, especially with everything that happened in the last two or three seasons before I started college,” Sims said of his recruiting process. “The tournament is going on, Michigan State, Minnesota, all these big games. Knowing that I had to get better, get stronger, adapt more to how the college game would be.”

It’s those memories of the great Blue Raider teams he saw growing up, which he was lucky enough to be part of at the end of Kermit Davis’ tenure as head coach, and which he is part of now under Nick McDevitt, who stuck with Sims through the personal challenges he faced in Middle Tennessee. Whether adjusting his style of play season after season or battling injuries that sometimes slowed him down, his loyalty to his school, his city’s school, his family’s school, never wavered.

“Don is made of the right stuff,” McDevitt said. “He’s from Middle Tennessee. He’s from Murfreesboro.”

There was never any other option for Sims when Davis offered him a scholarship to Middle Tennessee. The first all-region and all-district point guard at Blackman High, Sims helped lead the Blaze to a TSSAA semi-final as a junior. And after being recruited to MTSU, it opened a lot of doors at the Murphy Center that most prep recruits don’t see.

“I have to come and play with the guys a little bit, which most high schoolers going into college wouldn’t do,” Sims explained. “I would be done with school, drive here (in) ten minutes and have this experience before it becomes my lifestyle.”

When he finally became an official member of the program in 2017 at “6-1, maybe 140 pounds,” Sims didn’t expect to play much right away. He knew from those pickup sessions that he needed to build muscle, to adapt to the speed of the college game. Luckily for Sims, however, Davis only needed him to be himself when called upon.

“He told me before the season ‘maybe there are games you play two minutes, you can play zero minutes, you can play 20’,” Sims said. “And that’s how my first year went. All those times I was on the bench, I was honestly learning the whole season.”

Modesty aside, Sims was a key cog for a Blue Raider team that won the C-USA regular season title and went to the NIT, averaging 1.7 points, 1.4 assists and 1. 1 rebounds per game in 28 games while starting four of the team’s last six. Games. He was a distributor first, which suited the Sims given the talent he had around him in that 2017-18 squad with seniors like Nick King, Giddy Potts and Brandon Walters leading the way. This meant that when Sims shot it was usually pretty good, Sims shot 51.6% from the field and 44.4% from three in the freshman.

But that pass-first style of play is set to change, as Davis’ departure for Ole Miss at the end of the season has led to a flurry of movement across all aspects of the program, with players both being transferred from the team or just gone. downright. When the dust finally settled and Nick McDevitt was up, Sims said they had maybe eight or nine guys ready to play in the gym that summer, only four of whom he said were scholarships.

So when McDevitt asked The Sims to carry more of the scoring load, he stepped up with a second breakout campaign. After attempting just 31 shots in 2017-18, he attempted 292 field goals in 2018-19, increasing his per-game averages to 11.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.6 steals. in the process. He led the Blue Raiders in assists and steals and was second in total points.

The use took its toll, as Sims missed the final three games of the regular season with a leg injury, then injured his elbow enough in summer practices to affect his confidence. shoot. And with CJ Jones and Antonio Green now full members of the rotation for his junior season, Sims once again had to adjust his style of play to a more balanced distributor-type role.

By the time he tore his meniscus at the end of his true senior season, Sims had faced a lot of adversity just in his own mental game, where he relied on his family and his support system for the get out of his rut ​​and keep his mind straight.

“I had a little different role every year,” Sims said. “It bothered me a bit mentally, because I didn’t know who I was supposed to be that year. I had to adapt, but I’m fine with adapting to any role so that we could win games. I just had to overcome that and believe in myself. I always had people who believed in me.

McDevitt, for his part, was grateful to have a stabilizing presence like Sims on his roster during this transition period as he slowly clawed his way back up the team’s numbers.

“It speaks to the kind of person he is and the kind of player he is,” McDevitt said. “Some people don’t have the skills to do multiple things from year to year. He can go from a big impact scoring eight to a big impact scoring 25 if he has to.”

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All the adversity over his four-year career (and we haven’t touched on COVID-19 or the fact that the team record has continued to slip each season throughout Sims’ career), it might leave a neutral wondering that, given the free year of eligibility given to all NCAA athletes due to the pandemic, why stay at Middle Tennessee? For so many players across the country, a change of scenery might have been the spark a player was looking for.

Safe to say, that’s not the way Donovan’s Sims works, at least not as far as Middle Tennessee is concerned. No matter how bad things get personally, how complicated things get within the program, Sims knew he wanted to be a part of the next chapter of Blue Raider basketball. So when he graduated in Recreational Sports and Tourism Studies in 2021 (while making the C-USA Commissioner Honor Roll three times as an undergraduate), Sims knew that he wanted to stay.

“I love being here in Murfreesboro, I love being around the people,” Sims said. “My whole life has been about basketball, I’ve played every level here, so it’s pretty cool to live here and live out this dream that I had, to be in this gym, this city with these people.

“The BRAA, those people who support us, they stayed. It’s been a pretty tough couple of years, but those fans stayed for us. When you have people doing this stuff for you and you have people in your corner, you want to do the same for them.”

Sims’ patience and loyalty have been rewarded in 2022, with the grad student just six points behind the club’s 34th 1,000-point MT heading into Thursday’s game against Old Dominion. Its partnership with Josh Jeffersonironically, a one-year graduate transfer like Sims might have been, played a key role in the Blue Raiders’ excellent start to the C-USA game, where opportunistic defense and new found depth gave MT an inside route up the C-US East.

“He understands what this league is about, how hard it is to win in this league,” McDevitt said. “He knows the history of this place. He understands the meaning of the rivalry between central Tennessee and western Kentucky.”

Off the court, Sims is grateful to be able to take classes in real estate, the field he wants to go into when “the ball stops bouncing.” The extra year at MT, thanks in part to BRAA, gave him the chance to continue learning and preparing for a career long after his playing days were over.

“I would rather spend that time on a scholarship with that extra year given to us to learn what I really want to do with my future,” Sims said. “Some guys do their four years in college and they don’t know what they want to do, it’s always been basketball. So it gave me the big picture of life.”

Until that ball stops bouncing, however, Sims are going to be enjoying the ride, once again enjoying being on a team with some winning mojo. Because he knows what happens when this team, this program, this university is on the right track.

“I’ve seen what it’s like to win here for this team, for this program, for this city and it feels really good,” Sims said. “I just want to bring that feeling back to Murfreesboro and the Murphy Center.”

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