Lady Highlanders have D-1 basketball signee
Two-time all-district guard Karsen Sims signed scholarship papers with Coastal Carolina Saturday evening at Gatlinburg-Pittman, just an hour before the school celebrated the opening of their new gymnasium with games against Clinch.
Sims, a scrappy combo guard that’s led the Lady Highlanders in scoring since her sophomore year, was introduced to the Chanticleers program through the GPHS’s team’s annual trip to Coastal Carolina for the school’s basketball camp.
“We started going to basketball there two summers ago, and I absolutely fell in love with it,” Sims said. “Coach (Alan LeForce of Coastal Carolina) had never talked to me or anything, but I’d told my mom ‘that’s my favorite place. I would go there if he offered me anything.’ He’d never said anything, I was just talking in general.”
It wasn’t too much later that Sims’ dream came true.
After watching Sims at camp and playing AAU basketball, the Chanticleers’ staff came calling.
“They started talking to me and said they wanted me on a visit,” Sims said. “I was even happy just for the experience to go there (on a visit).”
Sims committed to the team earlier this month.
“I’m very excited because I know that’s where I wanted to go,” she said.
Asked if Coastal Carolina’s address — Myrtle Beach, N.C. — had anything to do with her love for the school, Sims was honest. “It helps,” she said with a laugh. “It is right next to the beach. I love it.”
But Sims, who made a 32 on her ACT and is on pace to be a school salutatorian, also praised the basketball program.
“They like to get after it on defense, and I like doing that,” she said. “Running the ball up the floor — they have a quick team.” Sims figures into their plans as either a point guard or two-guard.
Always a leader by example thanks to her never-say-die competitive spirit, coach Katie Parton says Sims has been a game-changer for the Lady Highlanders at G-P since her freshman season.
“When she got here, she brought a fire and a hustle that no one here had really brought (in the recent past),” Parton said. “She started as a freshman from the first game on. Her presence on the court is just so intense, because she just plays so hard, and she’s so competitive and does whatever it takes to get it done.”
In her four-year career, Sims has developed into a good scorer and great all-around player.
“She’s our leading scorer, she’s our go-to girl at this point,” Parton said. “We do have lots of other girls that do score, but when it’s down to the break-down we want Karsen to have the ball in her hands. She’s just that girl for us.”
Sims is just a few games away from reaching the 1,000-point milestone with G-P.
This season, however, she’ll have to do more than just score — with a young, but talented, team Sims will have to be a floor general for the Lady Highlanders.
“This year she’s going to have to be more of a vocal leader for us,” Parton said. “So far she’s growing into that role pretty good. But I think if we’re going to be as good as we want to be, she’s going to have to step up a little more.”
Sims seems ready for the challenge.
“We were third in the district the past two years,” she said. “We’re hoping to make it further this year. We’ve got some tough competition again this year, but we’re workign hard every day to make it further and make a really good run.”
An excellent athlete in every aspect, Sims has been an all-state soccer player at Gatlinburg-Pittman and also placed seventh in the state in the A/AA pentathlon this past year.
While she likely could have found a collegiate home as a soccer player, Sims had no question about which sport she should pursue.
“Basketball was my first love. I started playing it when I was around 5, and I got into AAU because I knew I wanted to play (college) basketball,” she said. “I never really talked to anybody about soccer or anything because I knew I wanted to play basketball.”
No matter what happens from here on, G-P will always hold a special place in Sims’ heart.
“My experience at G-P will never, ever be replaced,” she said. “There’s nothing that could surpass it.”