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This story appeared in the Greater Dallas edition of the December ESPN RISE Magazine.
MacArthur (Irving, Texas) senior Odyssey Sims has possessed unmistakable talent on the basketball court since she was a young girl.
|MacArthur (Irving, Texas) senior Odyssey Sims has twice been named to the All-State team.|
The first to notice were Sims' older brothers, Oscar and Onaye. For many brothers, having a sister who always tagged along to the court would have been a serious nuisance. But Oscar (now 26) and Onaye (now 18) had no problem letting their sister follow them around.
The pair encouraged Odyssey's basketball development by regularly practicing with her at a local rec center. And it was during one of those sessions that her talent was recognized by a local coach, who invited Sims to join a girls' team in the Irving Basketball Association. She'd never played organized hoops before, but it wasn't hard to recognize that her career was about to take off. Even her grandmother could see it.
"One of my best memories is when she started playing in the IBA league, and my mother saw her play," recalls Sims' mom, Pamela Thompson. "I had never seen her grandmother that happy in my life as when she watched Odyssey play. That's when I knew Odyssey had learned and understood the game."
Sims' talent has only grown more obvious over the years, and the 5-foot-8 Baylor pledge now ranks as the No. 1 point guard and No. 3 overall recruit in the ESPNU HoopGurlz 100.
But back in fourth grade, Sims ran into a problem. Her game was so advanced that even playing with eighth-grade girls was too easy. So her mother lobbied for Sims to join Onaye's IBA team, a squad made up of boys a year older than her. Many coaches were skeptical Sims could hang with the boys. But she was eventually accepted onto the team and thrived as the first girl to play on a boys' team in the league's 23-year history.
"She came in and dominated," says Diana Brooks, an IBA board member who saw many of Sims' games. "She would shoot the lights out. The boys could not hold her. One game she had 25 points and the boys were so mad."
Sims continued frustrating her male opponents in the IBA through eighth grade, and assistant coaches for the MacArthur girls' basketball team began raving about Sims to head coach Suzie Oelschlegel.
"They said, 'You better make sure you keep your eye on this kid,'" says Oelschlegel, who's in her 23rd year at the helm. "She was deadly off the dribble. She was unstoppable."
When Sims arrived at MacArthur, the fact she'd been playing with the fellas was immediately evident.
|Sims is the nation's top point guard according to ESPNU HoopGurlz.|
"She absolutely loves the game and hates to lose," Oelschlegel says. "You've got to see her go against the boys during pick-up games after school. She would rather compete against them. That's where she feels most comfortable."
Even though she was surrounded by a strong cast of veterans as a freshman on MacArthur's varsity team, Sims averaged 20.1 points, 4.0 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 4.1 steals per game to earn Dallas Morning News Newcomer of the Year honors. She lit it up as a sophomore, upping her averages across the board to 26.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 5.0 steals.
As a junior last season, Sims became more of a floor general with 6.3 assists per game to go along with 18.4 points a contest to earn her second consecutive All-State nod. The Cardinals finished the season 35-4 after a narrow loss to eventual state champion Summit in the Region I-5A semifinals.
This past summer, Sims traveled with the DFW Elite AAU team to Chicago, Cincinnati and New Orleans for tournaments, while also making a point to work on her ball-handling whenever she could. Jump shooting had been a previous point of emphasis for Sims, and developing her outside touch did wonders for her game.
"I think the confidence has come along with developing a beautiful outside shot," Oelschlegel says. "Now she's got a weapon inside and outside."
A sprained ankle cost Sims some playing time late in the summer, but she's looking forward to making a push toward a state title with MacArthur now that she's fully recovered.
"We have a lot more experience and chemistry this year," Sims says. "As far as me being the upperclassman, I'm going to do more scoring and passing. My teammates follow a lot of what I do."
One distraction Sims won't have to deal with as a senior is recruiting stress. She committed to Baylor last spring and planned to sign with the Bears in November. Although Sims and her mother evaluated other colleges, like LSU, Tennessee and Texas A&M, Baylor was Sims' top choice from Day 1.
Not only did Sims develop a close relationship with the Baylor coaching staff, but Oelschlegel herself played for the Bears in the late '70s. Sims attended games and summer camps at the school, and she's already friendly with many players on the team.
"She's definitely one of the most acclaimed (players) I've ever coached," Oelschlegel says. "She's our team leader who's helped us get national exposure. She's going to leave a lasting impression here."
Sims has been leaving her mark on basketball courts throughout the Irving community since she was a kid. Her next challenge will be to do the same in Waco for the Baylor women's basketball team.
And considering her history of going head-to-head with boys on the court, Sims will undoubtedly leave an impression on the Baylor men's basketball players should any friendly pick-up games break out.