After transferring from Arlington Country Day School (Jacksonville, Fla.) to Elev8 Academy (Delray Beach, Fla.) in December, senior big man Yankuba Sima has noticed a major uptick in his all-around game during the last two-plus months. The 6-foot-11, 206-pounder, who moved to the United States from Spain a half-year ago, helped his team to a 22-2 record by muscling up around the rim; scoring inside; and becoming a more dynamic presence on both ends.
“I think I improved a lot since I’ve been here. Coach [Chad] Myers is a great coach, and the staff here really pushed my to excel,” said Sima, who now holds offers from Maryland, Baylor, Louisville, South Florida, Arizona and Washington. “I improved my toughness, my physicality, my body -- I gained 11 pounds in three months.
“I play with more energy than before too. Before I was so slow and really [methodical] with my movements, but now I’m aggressive and really help the team. I’ve improved my scoring around the rim and blocking shots too.
“But I still have a long way to go to be where I want to be. I want to play higher with the ball, gain even more weight and just get better all-around protecting the rim and getting rebounds on both ends.”
Sima wasn’t sure of his statistics this year, saying he didn’t really care about his numbers so long as he was aiding Elev8.
“I’m all about helping my team win,” said Sima, who noted that his team has a tournament in Connecticut March 10-11 before their season is completed. “That’s the kind of player I was raised to be. Stats don’t matter to me.”
Evidently Sima showed enough at Elev8 to draw in a couple new suitors. He previously held offers from UMD, Louisville, Baylor and USF, but said Washington and Arizona have recently anted up.
He was particularly intrigued by the latter.
“I was really excited about getting Arizona, and I’m excited to visit there sometime this month [March],” Sima said. “I don’t know the exact date, but I’m going to take an official visit there. I know Arizona a great university with a great basketball program. I know their coach has a really good reputation, and they play really well from what I could see. It could be a great opportunity for me.”
At this point, the only other university Sima wants to check out is Maryland. He previously visited the Terps back in November when UMD knocked off Fordham Nov. 20, and said he “definitely” wants to return to College Park, Md.
“Either later this month or like early April I want to see Maryland too. Maryland and Arizona are the two schools I’m focused on,” Sima said. “Just like Arizona, I think I have a great opportunity at Maryland, and I’m excited to get back up there. I think it’s a great school, the [Xftinity Center] is really cool, and it’s a great atmosphere there with their fans.
“One of my former teammates from back home [at Canarius Basketball Academy in Spain], [Michal] Cekovsky, is there now, and he loves it there. He’s been trying to get me there for awhile now, just telling me how great the coaches are and how welcoming everyone is.”
Speaking of coaches, Sima couldn’t say enough about his Terps' area recruiter, Dustin Clark. Sima said he and Clark talk regularly, and the latter was just at one of Elev8’s games in late February.
Clark, along with head coach Mark Turgeon, have seen Sima in action on several occasions this year, and the big man has taken notice.
“Coach Clark was just down here, and he was saying how much I’ve improved since the last time he saw me,” Sima said. “Him and Coach Turgeon have both been to see me, and they are really good people. I know Coach Turgeon a little bit from when I visited, and I think he’s a great coach, but Coach Clark is the one I have a really strong relationship with.
“I met Coach Clark last year when he came to visit, and I’ve seen him a bunch since then. We know each other very well, and I’m very comfortable with him. He’s telling me how I’m their guy, and how [the UMD coaches] think I can help them. They think I can have an impact there right away.”
Sima went on to say that he’s watched plenty of Maryland’s games on TV this year. He said he’s been impressed with how the Terps have performed and thinks he’d fit well into Turgeon’s system.
“Anytime I can I watch Maryland play. They have some really good players and are beating some really good teams,” Sima said. “I could see myself there, and just helping the team as a big man [presence]. “
Previously, Sima had said Louisville and Maryland were his top two schools, but he’s since retracted that statement. For a variety of reasons, the Elev8 product seems to have backed off the Cardinals (or vice versa).
“I mean, I still like Louisville, but Maryland and Arizona are my top two now. Those two are my best opportunities,” Sima said. “Hopefully after I visit both [Maryland and Zona] I’ll know where I want to go and won’t have to take any other trips. Maryland is a school that’s been with me since I got here [from Spain], and even before that. So they’re going to be there for me.”
Sima isn’t sure exactly when he wants to commit, but he hinted it would likely come shortly after his second official.
“I really don’t know when I’m going to decide [on a school], but when I find the place I’m comfortable at, I’ll probably just commit,” Sima said. “Right now I want to have a good time on these couple visits and see what happens.”
Sima Focused On Two, Setting Officials
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