WACO, Texas (AP) — Odyssey Sims became Baylor's starting point guard as a freshman and almost made it to the NCAA Final Four.
The Lady Bears had an undefeated national championship title when she was a sophomore. There was another tournament run to a regional final last season, which ended with a one-point loss and Sims agonizingly sprawled on the court with her face buried in her hands.
Now a senior, Sims is finally the headliner for the No. 7 Lady Bears — and they are still on top of the Big 12 even though the All-American is surrounded by mostly underclassmen instead of two-time AP Player of the Year Brittney Griner and four other seniors who departed.
"It's obviously Odyssey Sims' team," Kansas State coach Deb Patterson said. "And she can be very, very dominant with the ball now."
Already Baylor's career assists leader, the feisty 5-foot-8 guard is now second nationally averaging 30 points a game. Sims has four 40-point games and even when she was held to a season-low 17 points last month at Oklahoma State, she had the game-winning three-point play in overtime.
"My scoring role is different, but everything else is still the same," Sims said. "I'm still the same player, I just have the ball more."
Baylor swept the Big 12 regular season and tournament titles in each of Sims' first three years. Despite Sims being the Bears' only returning starter, they are leading contenders to do it again in her only season without Griner on the court with her.
"People who think that Odyssey Sims is in Brittney Griner's shadow don't understand the value of Odyssey Sims," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. "Pound for pound, she is considered by many to be the best to ever play the game.
"When you're 6-8 like Brittney is, when you walk on the court you don't notice Odyssey Sims at 5-8," Mulkey said. "But when the ball is being tossed up, then you go, 'Holy cow, this girl is the real deal.' She's never been in the shadow of anyone."
And that assessment is coming from Mulkey, who herself was a tough-nosed guard while winning two national championships at Louisiana Tech and a gold medal with the 1984 U.S. Olympic team.
San Jose State coach Jamie Craighead, after Sims had 29 points and 13 assists against her team earlier this season, rhetorically asked if anybody really defends Sims.
"She's got to be the best point guard in the country, and probably the best player in the country," Craighead said. "You kind of catch yourself watching her."
A left-handed shooter, Sims is also a stellar on-ball defender that frustrates opposing ball-handlers with her aggressive style.