Former Augusta basketball standout Jake Sims wants to make one final huge mark when it comes to his collegiate career.

Former Augusta basketball standout Jake Sims wants to make one final huge mark when it comes to his collegiate career.

Sims thought his mark was going to be made at Gardner-Webb, a NCAA Division I team in North Carolina that plays in the American Sun Conference. It didn’t work out for him there and he didn’t want to wait a year to move to another Division I school; so he decided to go to a Division II school.

Now as a member of the Tigers, Sims is taking some of the load in what will be his only season there. He currently leads the 7-1 Tigers by averaging 11.4 points and 5.6 rebounds a game. Among the victories Fort Hays State has acquired was a home victory over  Southwest Oklahoma State, avenging the Tigers’ only regular season loss of the season. Southwest was ranked No. 8 in NCAA Division II.

“It’s been great, so far,” Sims said. “How comfortable you are off the court really affects you on the court. At Gardner-Webb, I didn’t fit well with my surroundings. It’s just like a normal day life up here. It’s a ‘coming home’ situation because I know how Kansas is and how people are going to react to certain situations. It just makes it easier to be here every day.”

Sims was a member of the 2002 Class 4A basketball state champion team; then won a Jayhawk West title his sophomore season with Dodge City Community College, averaging almost 10 points per game and shooting 40.9 percent from three-point range during his two-year stint with the Conquistadors.

“Dodge City helped me out a ton because in the Jayhawk Conference, you get to play against top-notch athletes,” Sims said. “They’re Division I athletes, but they just can’t make (the grades). It helps you out and makes you a better player, and that’s what I wanted coming out of high school. I knew I needed to get better to go on to the next level.”

But things didn’t go as well at Gardner-Webb, where he averaged 7.2 points a game and made 34.2 percent of his three-point baskets in his one season. Although he played against teams like North Carolina and Texas Tech, the team went 8-22 on the season and Sims left the school for a number of reasons.

“It was a good experience, but it didn’t work out,” Sims said. “I played a lot, but being a long way away from home, I wanted to win more than eight games. We had the team to compete, but I didn’t feel like our coaches were putting the right people out there and not putting us in the right situations to win.”

Sims knew if he ever decided to play in Division II, then he wanted to go to FHSU. Sims called Dodge City assistant coach Brady Trenkle, who in turn called FHSU head coach Mark Johnson. After a quick visit to the Hays campus during spring break, Sims joined the Tigers.

Johnson felt he was fortunate to have Sims on the squad, but disappointed in that the coach only has one year with the player. The main emphasis for Sims is to be a little more of a scorer and attacker, with Johnson moving him to small forward this season.

“He’s such a joy to coach and you know you don’t have to worry about him everyday,” Johnson said. “He works hard and is a very coachable kid. He understands the game at a high level. We’re just thankful that we have him for his final year.

“Sometimes when you have guys move from Division I, it’s a slow transition. Jake has handled the transition as well as anybody. Jake has always been an unselfish player and we feel like he hadn’t been aggressive enough. It took the first month of the season to get it through to him that we need him to be an offensive threat for us, and he’s done that.”

The move to northwest Kansas is just another step for Sims as he wants to win one more college title before he rides off into the sunset of his career.

“You always want to shoot for that conference championship; that’s the first goal on your mind,” Sims said. “Overall, you just want to win and you want to go out and have a sense of being a winner; and not losing a lot of games your last year. We lost a lot of games (at Gardner-Webb) and I didn’t want to take that chance of going out being a loser. I want to go out and win a lot of games, and being known as a winner.

“Hays kind of had a bad year last year, and it would kind of be nice to help them get on the right track for next year and the years after. It’s almost a real similar situation like what I had in Dodge.”

Sims did get to fulfill a couple of other dreams before the Tigers’ regular season, when Fort Hays State played exhibition games against the Kansas State Wildcats and Kansas Jayhawks. The senior took in everything he could about both games against the in-state Big 12 schools.

“You go into it that you want to win; but when the final buzzer sounds, you have to look at it as a great experience and take what you can from it,” Sims said. “ Against K-State, we got to play against (freshman star Michael) Beasley, who will probably be the No. 1 pick in the draft. And KU is KU. Every Kansas kid wants to play at Allen Fieldhouse and I got to do that, so that was pretty neat.”