It’s no secret that each year, there are a handful of Memphis-area high school basketball recruits who generate national buzz and attract extra attention to games when they’re in the gymnasium.
What has often been overlooked is the sheer amount of unheralded talent that goes unnoticed – and too often unrecruited by college scouts.
While several players sign their National Letter of Intent during early signing periods in December and April, one area coach is working to shine a light on overlooked players.
More than 18 years ago, area basketball coach Dorsey Sims III created Diamonds & Gems in the Rough, a program that helps identify some of the top unsigned players in Memphis and the Mid-South.
“I’m not looking for the superstar,” said Sims, 59. “I’m looking for that guy that has something to prove.”
Sims has a basketball pedigree that goes back to James Naismith, the inventor of basketball. His father was Dorsey Sims Jr., a Tennessee Sports Hall of Famer who assisted under Larry Finch at Memphis State University.
Not surprisingly, the elder Sims talked hoops with other coaches and students of the game – among them former Tennessee State coach John McClendon and Marcus Haynes, who once coached the Harlem Globetrotters. McClendon made history in 1969 as the first African-American to coach an ABA or NBA team, and was once coached by Dr. Naismith himself.
Dorsey Sims III picked up quite a bit just by being in the room while his father, McClendon and Haynes talked basketball. That’s how he developed a passion for basketball that still drives him today.
“It was fun to me because it was time to spend quality time with (my) dad,” Sims said. “Coaches were always at the house talking basketball and I would be around them as a child growing up. The game of basketball is just something I’ve always loved.”
Through the Diamonds & Gems in the Rough program, Sims personally invites about 100 players to a showcase for the opportunity to gain exposure. He then uses a group of collegiate coaches to help with the decision-making process, where he chooses 15 unsigned players to take on trips on the East Coast to help get exposure and aid their recruitment process.
Sims’ knowledge of the players comes from him watching a lot of high school basketball in the Mid-South during the year, including the prestigious MLK tournament.
“I want to pick the best talent for collegiate coaches to come observe and watch,” said Sims, who also performs PA announcer duties for the annual Martin Luther King Tournament. “I would say 80 percent of the high school programs participate in the MLK, so once the season starts, I get a chance to see you play.”
This year’s series of trips include stops in Washington D.C., Philadelphia, New York, Atlanta and Chicago. The players will play in several tournaments and tour several historical sights.
For Sims, the chance to help the kids earn an opportunity is what matters most. He does not get paid for his work with helping the players.
In fact, the trip totals will cost more than $30,000 – but each of the 15 players will pay only $50. Instead, Sims depends on sponsors and donations by consistently reaching out to his extensive list of contacts —county commissioners, U.S. Congressman Steve Cohen and many others.
“I know a lot of people and I don’t mind asking someone to help these young people,” Sims said. “We need your help.”
While the opportunity to play basketball at the collegiate level is what appeals to most, that’s not the main reason Sims wants to help the kids. Every time that he sits down to have a talk with his players, Sims constantly reminds them that education must come first because the orange ball can be swiped away with one bad injury.
“Basketball has been important, and it’s been good to me,” Sims said. “I’m more interested in business and jobs created away from the court. If you don’t make it there (basketball), there are good paying jobs.”
Recently, Sims wanted his players to workout with some players from Lemoyne-Owen College to show them what a collegiate work ethic looks like. Coincidentally, the Magicians basketball team includes two players who played for Sims.
Martez Briggs and Jerry Hurt played for Sims after graduating in 2015. For both players, it was their first time going to Rucker Park in New York and helped them in their collegiate careers.
“Coach Sims helped me in a lot of different ways,” Briggs said. “We just bonded as a group out there and it was good.”
“Going to New York was amazing,” Hurt said. “I got a chance to play at Rucker Park and so much great talent came from Rucker, so I really enjoyed it.”
After 41 years, Sims is showing no signs of stopping anytime soon, as he continues to operate on a jam-packed daily schedule and looks for the next diamonds in the rough out of Memphis.
“We have a lot of players here that are under-the-radar,” Sims said. “They can play, they’re just not given a chance. New York is the Mecca of media, Memphis is the Mecca of basketball.”
For more information, contact Dorsey Sims III (901) 644-2004 or [email protected]. All donations are tax deductible. Check payable donations should be made to Dorsey Sims III/On The Scene Sports or through the Y.E.S. Foundation.
(Damichael Cole is a rising senior at UT-Knoxville and an MPLOY Youth Summer Experience intern at The New Tri-State Defender.)