WACO, Texas — There is one thing Baylor needs senior guard Odyssey Sims to do less of this season: all those lob passes she is so good at.
As for everything else, the Lady Bears will need all they can get from Sims since two-time AP Player of the Year Brittney Griner will no longer be under the basket to catch those passes while towering over opponents.
“It’s a lot different, just being used to having her down there for three years,” said Sims, also an All-American last season and Baylor’s only returning starter. “But I like how this year we can prove how good our guard play is, and we’ll be able to run a lot more. So that’s what I’m more excited about than anything this season.”
Things certainly will be much different for coach Kim Mulkey and the Lady Bears with the 6-foot-8 Griner gone after four impressive seasons. There were plenty of highlight dunks, a record-shattering 748 blocked shots and 3,283 points to put Griner second on the NCAA women’s career list.
The Lady Bears made it to the NCAA Final Four when Griner was a freshman, the only year with her that they didn’t sweep the Big 12 regular-season and tournament titles, and went to a regional final in 2011 before losing to eventual champ Texas A&M. Baylor won the national title in 2012 while going undefeated in the NCAA’s first 40-win season, then unexpectedly came up short of another championship with a loss to Louisville in the regional semifinals last March.
“Odyssey is by far the most experienced player we have. She understands what it takes to win championships, she understands the work ethic,” Mulkey said. “She’s going to be asked to do more than ever before, both in her play and in the leadership capacity, and I think she’s ready for it.”
Sims averaged 13.7 points and 4.3 assists in her 108 games at Baylor the past three seasons.
Griner wasn’t the only senior on last year’s team. The Lady Bears also go into this season without post players Brooklyn Pope and Destiny Williams, and guards Kimetria Hayden and Jordan Madden.
The tallest player left it 6-5 sophomore post player Kristina Higgins, an inch taller than junior post Sune Agbuke, with nobody else on the roster over 6-2. Both played only about 5 minutes a game last season.
“I really think more so than the games, the experience they got to go against those seniors every day in practice had to make them better,” Mulkey said. “Those two young ladies took beatings every day in practice. They weren’t afraid to guard Brittney Griner. I think that will do more than anything they could have done on the court last year, and I just think it’s going to be fun to watch them when the lights come on now. This is their turn.”