By Zachary Reichard

Watching Muskegon senior McKynna Sims on the court, Big Red fans may be reminded of former Muskegon great Alyza Winston.

According to Sims, that’s no accident.

Muskegon senior McKynna Sims. Photo/Jake Szetela

 “Her outlook on basketball has influenced me so much,” Sims said about watching Winston during her Muskegon days. “I like to watch her film from a couple years back and mimic her playing style. Having a role model like that really helps.”

Using Winston as an example, Sims has taken on a leadership role this year for a Big Reds team that is looking to climb to the top of the O-K Green conference and make a run in the state tournament.

Sims has had some big games so far for the Big Reds early in the season, scoring 18 points and six assists in a 48-47 win over Kalamazoo Central. She also scored 11 of her team’s 30 points in a loss to Kent City to start the year.

Muskegon coach Paris Thomas said that Sims has a wealth of potential, and part of getting her to play her best basketball this season will come down to helping Sims realize how good she can be.

“I don’t know if she realizes how good she is,” Thomas said, adding that the next step is to bring that consistency to every game. “On any given night, McKynna can be very impactful to the game. Obviously, she’s going to be key to us winning a lot of these games.”

Beyond the stat sheet, Sims has become a leader for Muskegon and has earned the respect of her teammates.

Muskegon Coach Paris Thomas. Photo/Jake Szetela

“I definitely see her as a leader, (the team) looks up to her as a leader,” Thomas said. That it goes beyond the basketball court. “She’s a great kid off the court, she has a good spirit about her.”

Sims said she is knows that part of being a leader is relying on teammates and getting everyone on the same page.

“I have always felt like I’m a natural leader,” Sims said. “Being a senior leader on the team, I have to hold my teammates accountable.”

Despite a 1-2 start, Sims and Thomas have high expectations for the team this year. There is plenty of talent on the Big Reds roster, but need to work in unison to be their best.

“We know that we are very skilled individually, I don’t think we understand the skill we have as a team. Once we realize how to flow, it’s going to be so beautiful,” Sims said.

Thomas said this is the most athletic group she has had at Muskegon. They are still working on finding the right combination, but she is confident that they can pull it together.

“I have a lot of faith in my kids,” Thomas said. “We have to find our groove, and once we do, it’s going to be a scary sight.”

Sims is hoping to have a successful senior year, but she also plans to continue playing next year in college. Sims has received offers from Roosevelt University and Macomb Community College.

“It’s so exciting. I’ve been dreaming about playing at the next level since sixth grade,” Sims said. “It feels natural, like this is what I’m meant to do.”

Sims said that she does not have a timeline for when she will decide about where she will play next year, instead she hopes to let the process – and season – play out and decide when she feels comfortable.

“She’s super excited to continue to explore her options and I think that’s what she’s going to do at this point. I think the offers she has is awesome for her,” Thomas said.