Sima's Shining In U.S.; High On Terps

Yankuba Sima, a 6-foot-11, 215-pound class of 2015 center, has caught the eye of numerous high-major programs, and is considered a Maryland lean.

Yankuba Sima has been in the United States all of five months, so it’s understandable the Barcelona, Spain, native is still adjusting to life abroad. The 18-year-old center, who is now starring for Elev8 Sports Institute (Delray Beach, Fla.) has overcome the language barrier -- he speaks fluent English, albeit with a heavy accent -- but admitted the lifestyle change has taken some getting used to.

“How can I say it? The United States, it’s different. Just different,” said the 6-foot-11, 215-pound Sima, a class of 2015 recruit, who first entered the consciousness of U.S. basketball coaches following a 2013 summer tournament while playing at Canarias Basketball Academy. “I mean, I do like it here, but it’s hard to explain. The people here are nice, but they are a lot different than in Europe where I’m from. And the food, that’s a big thing that’s different. Here in the U.S. it’s a lot of fast food, but in Europe it’s more like you sit down for a meal and eat homemade food. So I’m not used to that yet. But I like being in Florida, because the weather is great. I like it hot; I hate the cold weather (laughs).”

Sima has also not seen his family since arriving in the U.S., which has been difficult as well. He said his mother and father live about 45 minutes north of Barcelona.

“It’s always tough when you don’t get to see your family, but I talk to them still all the time. They always check up on me,” Sima said. “But this summer I’ll have a chance to go home when I go back to Spain for the FIBA World Cup. Then I’ll come back to the United States again so I can go to university.”

Ah yes, but which university?

“I don’t know yet,” Sima said, laughing. “We’ll see. There are a lot of good programs that have offered me.”

The 6-11 big man has at least two firm offers from Maryland and Louisville, while Auburn, Baylor and Arizona are on the verge as well. Sima said the Cardinals and Terps offered as soon as he arrived in the States, while the latter three schools entered the picture after coaches from each saw him play on the summer circuit.

“Maryland and Louisville, they were the first two [to offer],” Sima said. “I think they’re both good schools. Both of them have great programs, and have good players. They both develop players well, and all the players that go there have a chance to play at the next level or even get to [the NBA] early. I feel like I can improve at either one of those places, and they can help me reach my goals.”

Sima, however, added a caveat.

“But Maryland is my favorite,” he said. “The way they play, their style, and it’s a great university. They have great facilities, and I feel like they have a great team with a really good future. I watched them play a couple games on TV, and they have a really good system and some really good players. I like watching them, and how they run up and down; how their big guys run; and how their bigs block shots and are involved in the offense.”

The Terps first took notice of Sima when assistant Dustin Clark began recruiting current UMD freshman center Michal Cekovsky at the Canarias Basketball Academy in 2014. Sima and Cekovsky were teammates at CBA, and remain good friends even though Cekovsky is now in College Park, Md.

Both Clark and Turgeon, in addition to UMD assistant Cliff Warren, scouted Sima last summer and at his former high school, Arlington Country Day School (Jacksonville, Fla.). They have since seen him play in a tournament since his transfer to Elev8.

“I really like Coach Clark; he’s a really good guy, and I like talking to him. I met Coach [Mark] Turgeon too, and I like him a lot too,” Sima said. “They’re both saying they like me a lot, and how they need a big guy who can pass the ball; shoot; defend and run the floor. They say I can be an important player on the team, and someone who can come there and play right away. They say I’m their top big [man]. They came to see me play, and they really think I can help them.”

While the Terps’ coaches have traveled to see Sima, the emerging big man reciprocated last November, when he visited College Park, Md., for Maryland’s game against Fordham. Obviously, it was Sima’s first time on campus.

“I was there when Maryland played Fordham from New York. The game was awesome -- like thousands of people there. We don’t have those kind of crowds back in Europe,” Sima said. “I thought the [Xfinity Center] was wonderful, and just how all the people were into the game -- it was crazy. And it was a good game, and I liked how Maryland played.

“I talked to the coaches after the game, and, like I said earlier, they think I’d be an important player for them. Then I talked to Michal [Cekovsky], who I knew from CBA back home [in Spain]. We played with each other, and we talk all the time. He said it’s a great experience there at Maryland. He said he likes the people, it’s a great place, they’re very welcoming, and how the coaches care a lot about you. He said they feed you really well, the coaches push you, and you improve. He said the facilities are really great too, you know?”

Sima plans to return to Maryland for an official visit next month, though he hasn’t set one up yet (he still needs to take the SAT). He also wants to see Louisville, Auburn, Arizona and Baylor at some point.

He currently has no firm decision date, but hinted it would probably be sometime early in March.

“I don’t really know yet [when I’ll decide],” Sima said. “Maybe in March, maybe the end of the season here. I really don’t know. I want to take some visits first and just keep getting better as a basketball player.”

Speaking of getting better, Sima said he’s already seen his game improve since arriving in the States. He said he did well enough at Arlington Country Day, but “I felt like I could improve even more at Elev8, it was just a better situation for me.”

“Elev8 is great. I really like it here. The coaches, Coach [Chad] Myers, he knows what he’s doing and really helps you a lot. They’re teachers here, and they really care about you,” said Sima, who transferred in late December. “Right now I think I’m doing well shooting the ball, and I think I bring athleticism and length. I can shoot from the outside and score from [the paint]. I’m moving pretty well, getting up and down the court, passing well, finding my teammates.

“But I don’t think I’m playing at my highest level, because the basketball is so different here. I’m still getting adjusted to the basketball here. It’s more of a guard game here, and in Spain the focus is on getting the bigger guys the ball.

“But, like, the type of players here, they’re different then in Spain. It’s more individual here than in Europe. And the people are tougher though than in Europe, where the game isn’t as physical. So I think that [playing against tougher players] will help me a lot. I have the skills, but now I just have to get stronger and tougher. Improving my toughness -- that’s the main thing.”

As Sima continues to develop and acclimate himself to American basketball, he’ll undoubtedly become a significant contributor for some high-major program. Maryland could very well be that program, though for now Sima just wants to make sure he’s ready for the rigors of college basketball.

“I still have a lot to learn, and I just want to get better,” Sima said. “I want to continue to learn here [at Elev8], and then find a [college] that is going to help me get to the next level. I feel like it’s been going pretty good so far.”

TerrapinTimes Top Stories