St. John's got a much-needed dose of size when 6-foot-11 center Yankuba Sima committed to the Red Storm in April. Though initially expected to back up Chris Obekpa in the middle, Sima was thrust into the starting lineup after St. John's all-time leader in blocks decided to transfer. The incoming freshman was rated No. 14 in the nation at his position in the Class of 2015 according to 247Sports.com.
How he got here
While Sima enters St. John's as a true freshman, he racked up extensive international experience over the past two summers, which helped him gain acclaim as a top-flight recruit.
This past summer, Sima, from Girona, Spain competed at the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championships where he averaged 9.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks over seven games as his team advanced to the quarterfinals of the tournament.
Sima opened competition by nearly posting a double-double with 10 points and eight rebounds in a win over China. He registered consecutive double-digit rebound performances against Turkey and Argentina with 10 and 11 boards, respectively. Then he exploded for 22 points, eight rebounds and four blocks against Greece.
"Yankuba excelled against quality international competition this summer," said St. John's Head Coach Chris Mullin after Sima signed with SJU. "He will give us a different look in the front court with his length and versatility. We are very excited to welcome Yankuba to the St. John's basketball family."
At the 2014 U18 European Championships, Sima led Spain to a fifth place finish, wrapping up the tournament with the highest rebounding average (12.1), and ranking second in both blocks (2.1) and doubles-doubles (6) to go with 10.9 points in nine games. He delivered a dominant performance against Russia, scoring 17 points, grabbing 19 boards and blocking a tournament-best six shots. Sima also turned in a tournament-high 21 rebounds against Greece.
As a high school senior playing for Elev8 Sports Academy, Sima earned Florida Association Basketball Coaches/Source Hoops Independent Schools Third Team All-State honors. He previously attended Arlington Country Day High School after playing at the Canarias Basketball Academy in the Canary Islands.
Follow Sima on Twitter at @yankusima.
What he brings to the table
As the only true center on the roster, and as the team's tallest player, Sima will be counted on heavily as an anchor in the post for the young and inexperienced Red Storm. Sima's future seems very bright as a member of the red-and-white as Sima showed his versatility early on in St. John's exhibition win versus Sonoma State.
Displaying a variety of polished post moves, including a drop step and wicked spin move he used to score on the game's opening bucket, Sima racked up 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line. While most of his points have come via putbacks and dunks, Sima showed impressive footwork, seemed light on his feet and did not shy away from contact in the lane. Every indication is that his back-to-the-basket game is rapidly improving.
That is, of course, to say nothing of his defensive prowess. In 34 minutes against the Seawolves Sima snatched 16 rebounds and blocked eight shots. With point guard Marcus Lovett still waiting to be cleared by the NCAA, Durand Johnson still finding his footing after almost two years off the court, and Felix Balamou nursing a knee injury, Sima will have to step up for the Red Storm to have any chance of early season success.
Scouting reports on Sima all touted his physical attributes and his overall feel for the game.
There is no denying his physical traits. He's big. He's athletic. He's wiry strong. He blocks shots, rebounds and runs the floor very well for a player his size. Sima rebounds well above the competition because of his unique length. He was especially impressive on the offensive end of the floor with rebounds and put backs.
Sima has huge hands and a big wingspan. There wasn't a lot of floating on the perimeter and he stuck to what he knows best.
Yankuba Sima Video Highlights