As the only true freshman on the roster, Demetrius Mims has begun his college basketball career on a path of his own.
He’s listed at 6-foot-6 and doesn’t look like the traditional college freshman. At 180 pounds, “Meech” Mims appears to weigh more when you see his chiseled frame. Inked with a full sleeve of tattoos on his right arm that represents his Baltimore roots, Mims makes his way around campus with an air of confidence. He can be seen during pregame warmups doing 360-degree and between the legs dunks, easily setting himself apart as one of the most high-flying guys on the team.
The Long Beach guard grew up in a rough Baltimore, Maryland neighborhood and attended Baltimore Polytechnic Institute high school. Transitioning from north Baltimore to the Parkside dorms was a breeze for Mims, going from the inner city projects to living on Earl Warren Drive. The move became even easier when he immediately joined the Long Beach State men’s basketball team.
“[Long Beach] is a lot nicer than where I’m from,” Mims said. “It’s just a chill, nice environment. My teammates are real welcoming too, so it’s been easy.”
Founded in 1883, Baltimore Poly has a rich history, one in which Mims made his mark on. He is currently the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,516 career points throughout his time as a four-year starter on varsity. Mims played the lead role in Baltimore Poly’s back-to-back Class 3A state championship in 2017 and 2018. The success of his senior year was followed with him being named the Baltimore City Player of the Year and the Maryland State Player of the Year award. As a senior, he averaged 18 points and seven rebounds per game.
“We are going to miss him dearly,” Mims’ high school coach Sam Brand said to news publication DelmarvaNow in his senior year. “When he leaves, he will have left his mark not only with what he’s done on the floor, but what he’s done with his teammates.”
Fast forward a year and Mims has gone from being the face of a basketball program to learning the ropes of Division I basketball, getting less than half the playing time he’s been used to his entire life. So far this season, Mims is averaging 1.3 points in 4.8 minutes throughout 16 games.
“I’ve gone through trials and tribulations, it hasn’t been easy at all making the adjustment,” Mims said. “I’m just staying the course, really just trying to keep finding myself and keeping a positive attitude toward it. That’s really the biggest thing that keeps me going.”
The adjustment period Mims is going through is not something out of the ordinary. Many freshman struggle in their first year going from high school to the Division I college level. Players are bigger, faster and more skilled; coaches are tougher, stricter and more demanding.
“You definitely have to be a lot smarter with your play,” Mims said. “In high school, I could get away with making a few mistakes, and just making it up on the offensive or defensive end pretty easily. In college, pretty much everybody can score the ball at a high clip and everybody plays pretty smart, so you have to adjust with being sure of yourself and being sure with the ball.”
What’s important for players to realize in their first year of college basketball is that they usually are no longer the best player on their team. You get right back to work after earning a scholarship out of high school. With an open mind and willingness to reach his full potential, Mims is aware of the areas he can improve, with being able to create more space on offense at the top of his list.
“A lot of dudes at this level are very long and athletic,” Mims said. “I have a lot of athleticism to match that, but just knowing how to use my athleticism more.”
This past summer, Mims moved to Long Beach in July to get acclimated and start working on his skills. Spending most of his time in the Gold Mine and the Walter Pyramid, he began to realize the amount of work he has to put in and surprised himself with some of his abilities.
“They would have me making shots running at full speed, something that I didn’t even know that I was capable of doing,” Mims said.
But he still has more to learn if he wants to make his way into the seven to eight man rotation that head coach Dan Monson uses in Big West conference play. Mims has played in two conference games so far, but played in 14 games in the preseason. Monson, along with many other coaches, tightens up his rotation for Big West play every year. After an 82-71 defeat against UC Santa Barbara where eight players saw action, Monson acknowledged he should look to play Mims and redshirt freshman Milos Apic more.
“We gotta bring along the freshmen Milos [Apic] and Demetrius Mims better to get a little more depth because I think as we got the lead, it took a lot out of us,” Monson said.
Mims earned his first collegiate start Dec. 5 against Southern Utah where he only played eight minutes, scoring one point, one block and committing four fouls. He earned the start from Monson after performing well in practice leading up to the game.
“Demetrius was all over the place the last two days in practice,” Monson said. “You know as a freshman, he’s gonna make mistakes and he’s not quite ready, but he earned it.”
Even with limited minutes in Big West play, it still helps with Mims’ development, giving him the live-game action he needs to grow. While adjusting to getting little to no playing time, he looks to associate head coach Myke Scholl for advice. It’s what’s reminded him that he has a family here after traveling almost 3,000 miles from home.
“Coach Scholl, he’s been a big support for me,” Mims said. “He’s the one that did a major part of my recruiting and getting me here. He’s always looked at me as family. I talk to him a lot; we can talk about anything.”
It’s up to Mims to decide where his work will take him, as he can become a crucial part of Long Beach State basketball for the next three years.