Instead of celebrating its first day of practice, the LSU basketball team spent its Friday mourning the tragic loss of teammate Wayde Sims.
Sims was fatally shot early Friday morning near the campus of Southern University, according to reports.
All basketball functions scheduled for the day were abruptly cancelled, and head coach Will Wade and athletics director Joe Alleva addressed the media just hours after learning of the incident.
“Early this morning we got the call that you never want to get as a head coach,” Wade said. “We rushed down to the hospital and they let us know the news on Wayde.”
Alleva described the events as the most tragic he has ever experience, calling it “the saddest day he’s ever experienced in his career.”
“This world that we live in of athletics has its ups and its downs,” Alleva said. “There are know lower downs than what happened last night. It is an absolute tragedy when a young life gets cut off so senselessly.”
After spending much of the morning with Sims’ family, Wade went back to campus where the Tigers were scheduled to workout. He shared the news with Sims’ teammates there.
“We had a scheduled 6:30 a.m. workout this morning,” Wade said. “We brought the team together at 6:30 a.m. and shared the news with them. We had our entire staff, our entire administrative staff, we had counselors on hand. We just informed them and started the grieving process with our players at that time.”
Wade remembered Sims as the life of the team, always joking around and keeping guys happy, whether with impressions of Wade, pranks or even using his car to get people around when they needed.
“He’d do anything for anybody on our team,” Wade said. “He helped all the other guys move in because he was able to move in early. He was just a phenomenal guy. … everybody that was around him was drawn to him.”
Just days earlier in a press conference leading up to the first day of practice, Wade referred to Sims as one of the most improved returners on the roster, expecting him to play a big role in the Tigers’ success this season.
Sims averaged 5.6 points and 2.9 rebounds in 31 games with five starts as a sophomore. He entered the program under former head coach Johnny Jones after playing high school ball at University Lab. His father, Wayne Sims also played for LSU from 1987 to 1991.
“He was just growing and growing and growing,” Wade said. “That’s what’s so tough. He was on an big-time upward trajectory. It’s just tough when they’re taken too soon.”
As for how the program moves forward from such a tragedy, that’s yet to be seen.
Wade said the Tigers will have to stick to their strategy for everything: one minute, one day, one hour at a time.
Because right now, basketball is the furthest thing from their minds.
“We’re not going to worry about basketball right now,” Wade said. “We’ve got a lot bigger issues than basketball. Everybody grieves differently. It takes everybody different amounts of time for this sort of thing. We started the process this morning and we continue it for as long as we need to.
“Right now, we just want to get through today, and we’ll see what tomorrow brings.”