At Pitt, Sims is getting fit |

At Pitt, Sims is getting fit

Karen Price

A year ago, Pitt women’s basketball coach Agnus Berenato sat in Petersen Events Center and discussed the upcoming season.

The Panthers were going to be more balanced than the year before, she said, but if something happened to point guard Jania Sims, they would be in trouble.

Sims, who was coming off surgeries to repair stress fractures in both legs, played the entire season and started 29 of 31 games, but she wasn’t healthy. By midseason, Sims was hurting. She was far from 100 percent, and while that wasn’t the only reason for Pitt’s 5-11 record in the Big East, it undoubtedly played a role.

“I think she did a great job of hiding it, but every day she was in pain,” Berenato said. “There were days she couldn’t go. If I had it to do over, I probably would have sat her out totally some days, but none of us really realized (how bad it was).”

After a summer spent strengthening her legs, Sims said she’s feeling good and ready to go for her final season with the Panthers. She looked fit Friday night in Pitt’s only exhibition game, a 72-55 home win over Seton Hill: Sims had 11 points, three rebounds, five assists and three steals. Pitt opens the regular season Nov. 12 against Youngstown State.

“(Jania) looked like (Jania) to me,” Berenato said. “She was comfortable. She was confident. She wasn’t hurt.”

Timing may have played a role in Sims’ troubles last year. Having already been away from basketball for more than a year because of injuries and academic ineligibility, Sims had surgery on her right leg in April 2009, then on the left leg six weeks later. She wasn’t cleared to play until late August 2009, and Sims said she didn’t rehab the left leg the way she did the right before practice started in October.

“If I’d continued with the same treatment, it would have been fine, but I think I was just excited to hear, ‘You’re able to play now,’ ” Sims said. “It was a learning experience.”

Soon, Sims was the first one in the training room and the last one out. Having metal rods in both legs disallowed some treatment, such as cold whirlpools, and the training staff had to rely on trial and error.

“They’d try a new technique one day, and I’d tell them how I felt. And if it wasn’t working, then we’d have to try to find something else,” said Sims, who now wears sleeves on both legs to help them stay warm.

Despite playing in pain most nights, Sims still earned All-Big East honorable mention honors and set career highs in several offensive categories. The Newark, N.J., native tied for first on the team at 12.9 points per game, led in assists with 117 and shot a team-best 82.4 percent from the free-throw line.

And most nights, she never mentioned how much pain she was in.

“I didn’t want everybody in the whole world to know what was going on,” she said. “I just dealt with it. Basketball is a physical sport, and everyone’s not always 100 percent day in and day out. You just have to suck it up and fake it to make it.”

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