Brent Petway told his teammate it was all right to cry.
It’s an odd statement in a world where an athlete is expected to be indestructible.
But Petway isn’t the prototypical team leader, and following the shocking death of DeShawn Sims’s brother, Marcus Pruitt, in November, Petway made a bigger difference in Sims’s life than any of his flashy dunks could ever do for a game.
Petway happened to be the player Sims called not long after the tragedy. The senior said he dropped what he was doing and picked Sims up, and the two just drove around and talked.
“(I told him) ‘I’m here for you. So whatever you need, if you need to cry, you need a hug or you need to drive and get away,’ ” Petway said. “I just let him know he had a solid brotherhood right here.”
Sims said the two of them talk on a regular basis, and it’s clear how much the freshman looks up to his elder counterpart.
“Brent is just the coolest guy,” Sims said. “Brent’s a great guy off the court, and he does a lot of special things for people.”
For most fans, the special things that Michigan’s most electric player does include Earth-shattering dunks and violent denials in the paint.
And even if a dunk doesn’t go in or a shot barely eludes his outstretched hands, any time Petway tries to make a play, he leaves fans shaking their heads at his incredible leaping ability.
But while dunks and blocks have defined Petway for his entire career, it’s his work off the court work that has affected Sims. It’s the kind of relationship that speaks more about a man than an impressive stat sheet.
“It means a lot,” said Sims of his connection with Petway. “(And) he always makes sure I’m all right.”
It would be easy for Petway to look the other way. Both players are power forwards, and any basketball related advice given to the rookie could potentially cost Petway minutes.
But rather than turn a cold shoulder, the senior has taken Sims under his wing and acts as a mentor to him.
Whenever Sims makes a mistake on the court, Petway is the first one at his side to offer his support and encouragement. And throughout the season, Petway has been the one to make sure Sims never gets too down on himself.
While Petway and Sims have bonded, the rest of Petway’s teammates also appreciate the leadership he provides.
“(His talking) gets guys to play to their fullest potential,” junior Ron Coleman said. “He tells us what to do, and he’s a veteran player so guys look up to him and he’s very energetic. He just gets us going.”
Highlight-reel dunks and blocks are his calling card. His outspokenness is well known.
But the day Petway shined the brightest was that afternoon, when he picked up a teammate in need and just drove around.
A hundred dunks couldn’t beat that. Just ask DeShawn Sims.