As much as Jericho Sims would like to shy from the spotlight, the timid junior wing’s 6-9 stature and his basketball abilities have caught the attention of colleges across the country.

Sims has averaged 22.1 points, 11.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game this season for Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, a south Minneapolis school not typically known for its athletics.

Cristo Rey coach Stanley Clay estimates about 25 college basketball programs have inquired about Sims, including Duke, Minnesota, Marquette, Arizona and Iowa.

“He’s just quiet,” Clay said. “He’s not a kid that [has] the big-man-on-campus attitude, he doesn’t have an ego, he’s very humble. A kid of his stature and his notoriety, he’s friends with everybody in school.”

While Sims’ talents have been generating hype about playing college ball, playing for Cristo Rey right now means putting up statistics against mediocre competition during the season in the Twin Cities Independent Schools conference.

In a game against St. Paul Preparatory on Jan. 21, Sims scored 34 of his team’s 71 first-half points, then sat on the bench the rest of the game en route to a 92-32 Cristo Rey victory.

Three days earlier, in a game in the middle of his third season at Cristo Rey, Sims scored his 1,000th career point.

Sims, who lives with his parents in Savage and Bloomington, chose to commute to Cristo Rey for its academic advantages. The Catholic high school formed in 2007 and focuses on inner-city youth. The school uses an alternative grading scale that requires students to meet multiple standards within one subject in order to pass. It also uses a work-study format where students work in corporate offices one day a week to help pay for tuition.

“We felt like if the academic piece in all of that … was good, everything else would follow,” said Kimberly Sims, Jericho’s mother. “I think that it’s hard for him, he likes higher-level competition, but I think what’s more important right now is he keeps the standards high with school. … He’s always in AAU and so that’s where he gets most of his exposure.”

Sims said he doesn’t mind playing for a lesser-known athletic program because his AAU experience helps him increase his intensity on the court at Cristo Rey as well.

“My grades were kind of bad when I was in eighth grade, so I had to get somewhere where I could get a little more help,” Sims said. “[But] this last summer of AAU helped me a lot because when I was a freshman coming in here, and even in my sophomore year, I was a little bit less intense than I am this year.”

Sims is not only bringing attention to himself but also to Cristo Rey. The boys’ basketball team, which plays in Class 1A, posted a 12-5 record this season through Tuesday thanks to Sims’ leadership.

“What he’s done in three years is he’s changed the school from strictly academic to now people are coming to inquire about sports,” Clay said. “This was the plan when we took it over, was to build something similar to other schools and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got good basketball at little old Cristo Rey.’ ”

While Sims said he feels no pressure from his family about committing to a college program, his family is familiar with the recruitment process.

Sims’ father, Charles Sims, played basketball for the Gophers from 1971-1975. Three of his five older brothers also played Division I college sports: Jason played basketball at Northern Illinois, Ty played basketball at Kansas State and Dominique played football for the Gophers.

Kimberly Sims said she knew early on her son was an athlete.

“He’s always been trained with basketball, and any sport,” she said. “With basketball, probably when I really noticed it, he was 3. He had brothers playing, and we had games on all the time, so he has always been around sports.”

Having so many athletes in the family has also meant Sims always had a mentor.

“A lot of people have given their little piece of influence that’s helped me,” Sims said.

Despite Sims’ shy demeanor, Clay predicted he will not be able to prevent further attention on the court.

“[He’s a] phenomenal athlete, super versatile, can dribble, can shoot, facilitate, pass, rebound,” Clay said. “In my 10 years of doing this, I haven’t seen a kid with the potential he has. He’s so dedicated, and he wants it so bad … he takes it all in stride.”

 

Kaitlin Merkel is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.