Curtis Sumpter: The Decision
Itís the ultimate decision.
Sometime very soon, Curtis Sumpter must choose whether to
do whatís best for his team or do whatís best for himself.
It isnít as simple as that, but it is.
After having two ACL surgeries on his left knee, the
Villanova senior forward hasnít been healthy enough to take the floor all
season. So heís now straining over the most difficult of choices: Take a
medical redshirt or help one of the countryís top ranked teams make a push
for the Final Four.
Villanova hasnít been to the Final Four since their
unlikely run to the National Championship in 1985, but this could likely be
the year of their return. They are storming through the regular season. They
are marching towards a number one seed in March. All the injured senior can
do is watch. And excruciatingly fight to join them.
Novaís senior class Ė Randy Foye, Allan Ray, Jason
Fraser, and Sumpter Ė was once a nationally-renowned high school foursome.
They all lived within driving distance of New York City. Foye from Newark,
New Jersey, Ray from the Bronx, Fraser from Long Island, and Sumpter from
They were highly prominent recruits. They were AAU
teammates. They were friends. And then one day, they were Wildcats. More
importantly, to Villanova University, they were potential saviors.
Months and months of early morning practices and locker
room jokes. The painful losses. Homesickness. Yet after two seasons
together, all this oh-so-important recruiting class had to show for their
effort was a .500 record and far more piles of sweat soaked socks than
dreams fulfilled. At least thatís what everyone outside the program thought.
Few understood the bond between these basketball brethren.
Everything clicked last year. Villanova won 24 games and
no one in the NCAA Tournament came closer to beating UNC, the eventual NCAA
Tournament champion. But during the second round of the tournament, Sumpter
tore up his knee. In October, he re-tore it and, consequently, tore up the
programís promise of hope for the first time in a long time.
The Wildcats play a four-guard offense, occasionally
exposing a lack of size. They could use a scorer who is not overly dependent
on his jumper falling. A 6-foot-7 swingman with an ultra-smooth offensive
repertoire, Sumpter fills both needs perfectly.
However, Sumpter hasnít even yet practiced with the team
this season. He doesnít even watch practice because, as he says, it just
hurts too much. Not his knee, his heart. He wants to be there with
his teammates. He wants to be there for his friends.
And game day must be killing him. Sumpter averaged over
15 points and 7 boards a game last season, while shooting 47% from the
field. All those plays once concocted just for him are now spread equally
amongst Villanovaís horde of healthy stars. Sumpter was their go-to-guy, but
now that distinction belongs to Ė depending on the day Ė Foye, Ray, or
sophomore Kyle Lowry.
Prior to the injury, most mock drafts projected him as a
mid-first round pick. Now heíd be lucky to go late in the second round. Any
NBA GM who drafts a kid with a bad knee takes a risk, but drafting a player
who has had two ACL surgeries is committing employment suicide.
If he applies for a medical redshirt, he could snatch
back his role as team leader, show off his rehabilitated knee, and Ė in the
process Ė increase his draft stock.
You just canít blame the kid if he sits this one out.
Villanova coach Jay Wright is publicly pleading for him
to do just that. Next yearís team will feature a solid nucleus of sophomore
guard Mike Nardi, junior forward Will Sheridan, freshmen forwards Shane
Clark and Dante Cunningham, and the aforementioned Lowry. Add Sumpter to the
mix and the í06-í07 Wildcats could be very good. But Wrightís reasoning
isnít selfish. The coach realizes second round draft picks donít make nearly
as much money as first round picks. He also knows second rounders donít have
The start of the Big East Tournament is Sumpterís
personal deadline and, in a way, his goal is to make a seemingly easy
decision as difficult as possible. That explains his maniacal rehab. Each
day the tedious, endless workouts nearly bring him to tears, but when his
muscles tremble and the lungs burn, he thinks of how he canít let his
teammates down. He knows he can help them win a National Championship, even
if his role is complementary.
After all, he says, his friends would do the same for
him. Itís what theyíve all dreamed about and itís why they all came to this
If Sumpter returns this season, he could potentially play
nine games. Nine postseason games. Three in the conference tournament
and six in the one that truly matters. Of course, if the Wildcats lose their
first game in both, his return would ultimately last just two games.
Curtis Sumpter believes in loyalty and friendship and
brotherhood. And he may risk his future to prove it.