Curtis Sumpter Interview

Tim Richer

What was your favorite personal moment from your career at Villanova?

I would say it would have to be the night I had 39 points here [against Northeastern on Dec. 12, 2003]. It just seemed like I couldn’t miss a shot. Everything seemed to go well for me that night. We also won, and not a single play was called for me that night. To not have any plays called for you and still wind up with 39 points just meant a lot to me.

What’s the best game you were involved in during your time here?

The first NCAA game and just going there for the first time and playing. We were NIT two years in a row, and that’s the point where we wanted to be, where we figured we would be at a certain point in our careers. Even though I didn’t play well and Allan [Ray] didn’t play well, we were just excited to be there and excited to get the win.

Outside of basketball, what about going to Villanova do you like the most?

I would say the people. Just the community as a whole has done a great job of making things comfortable for myself and my teammates. It’s obvious that we come from different places and it’s very unfamiliar here; coming to a place like this, but having people welcome us with open arms, helped us to adjust as best as we possibly could.

What other player, past or present, would you say you model yourself and your game after?

Someone like Josh Howard, currently, for the Dallas Mavericks, because he’s not a superstar, but he gets the job done. He does everything: he rebounds, he scores, he plays defense. This year he made his first All-Star appearance, and it was good to see that finally the league recognizes players like that.

You were heavily recruited as a high school player before coming to college. What made you choose Villanova coming in as a freshman?

I chose Villanova because Coach Joe Jones, who was here, recruited me when [Head Coach Steve] Lappas was here and he remained when Coach Wright got the position. Coach [Fred] Hill was the first college coach to recruit me from Seton Hall, and I just knew Coach Wright and Coach [Brett] Gunning from coaching at Hofstra. Once all those coaches were in the same setting, I thought it was the best situation for me.

What changes have you made as a player from your first year here until now?

The changes that were made just looked more to be outside and not so much inside. I was able to score inside pretty well, and Coach saw that and would just keep me inside, but, as time passed, he would let me venture out more. Not that I was never capable of doing it, but at the time, it was what was best for the team. What was best for the team was what I was going to do, but that definitely helped me out a lot.

What did you try to pass down to the younger guys on the team in your role as a senior leader this season?

Hard work ethic and telling those guys that things aren’t going to come to you easy. There’s going to be obstacles in your life, and you’ve always got to stay positive and try to overcome them.

So, did being injured last year change your outlook on basketball in general?

Yeah, I realized that this game is not promised to anyone. It’s not our right to play; it’s more of a privilege. There were times where I felt that I probably didn’t deserve to play the game. That’s why I tore my leg up twice. But with hard work and positive people behind me – family, coaches, friends and teammates – I was able to overcome it.

What’s your outlook for next year’s Wildcats?

It’s going to be a different makeup. I’m looking to see Dante Cunningham step up as a real leader for these younger guys. He’s the one with the most experience on the court. With the younger guys coming in, it’s going to be a real young team. They might struggle to find a way to play together, but just playing hard, defending and rebounding are some things we pride ourselves on here as a foundation, and I think that’s going to carry them over.

How did sitting out last season change your approach to how you play?

I felt I learned a lot more by sitting out last year, and I knew what was expected from me. I told that to guys and tried to be a coach within the team … I used my relationship with the team to help them understand what I had learned.

When you leave, what will you miss most about Villanova?

The friends, the team, coaches, community – everything that it stands for and represents.

What player, coach or other member of the program made the biggest impact on you during your time at Villanova?

[Former teammate] Jason Fraser had the biggest impact on me, watching what he went through. He was my best friend even before we came here, and we’ve stayed that way. To watch him struggle, I was there for him that whole time, but to watch a guy go through that after everyone heard about him coming in. They never really got to see him play. They thought he was a bust, but he was really the best player in the country coming in. Just to see him struggle really bothered and hurt me. Then when I got hurt, he was there for me. He definitely helped me.

What impact do you think this year’s seniors as well as last year’s departing players had on bringing Villanova back to national prominence?

Dedication, hard work, believing. Our first few years here we thought we were NCAA bound, but that didn’t happen. We didn’t do what was needed. We didn’t finish well, and we didn’t execute. The last few years we’ve learned how to finish a game. We still lost some close ones, but overall, we learned so much. We listened to Coach and learned the game. Guys had a great chemistry and bond. Off the court, when guys hung out, Allan [Ray], Randy [Foye], myself, Jason [Fraser] – we were together every day, every single day. Marcus [Austin], Chris [Charles], Mikey [Nardi] and Baker [Dunleavy] – it didn’t matter. If I went somewhere, it was seven of us squeezing in a car … and on the court, that trust level helped us so much, just that bond. People don’t think that helps, but if you are that close off the court, it’s definitely going to help you even more.

What have you heard about the differences between NBA life and college life?

I talk to Allan and Randy and Kyle [Lowry] all the time, and it’s just a business, like a 9-5 job. You go to work, then just leave and go home. Guys hang-out here a lot, and there it is not like that.

What are your immediate plans for the future?

Currently, I am staying here for the month, working with the trainers trying to get strength in my legs and doing basketball things. After, I’m going back to Brooklyn for two months. Then I’m going to the Orlando [pre-draft] camp and finally, the draft. We’ll see what happens after that.

Is there anything in particular that you are looking to do with your training?

Only thing that I’m worried about is my legs. I’m not worried about upper-body strength or anything else. I’m going to work at it, but that’s not my focal point. I’m going to try and maintain strength in my legs and work on my game.

Many people said that you looked like the “Curtis Sumpter of old” this season, in regard to your health. How are you feeling now?

I feel great. Coach and I talked about it at the beginning of the year; the season was going to be long for me. I had to overcome two ACL injuries. I was told there’s going to be times where you’re going to hurt, but that wasn’t an issue this year. Unrelated things like hamstring tightening – I played through it, and it was fine – and a deep bone bruise, which was the only thing that really hindered me.

What specific abilities or traits will you provide for the next team that you play for?

I’m bringing a winner to my next team. I am a guy that would do whatever it takes to win the game. I don’t need the ball all game to score 20 points; I don’t need to shoot the ball 20 times. I’ll do whatever it takes to win. If you want me to play defense this game, I’ll play defense. If you want me to rebound, I’ll rebound. If you want me to score, I’ll score. I’m one of those few, very versatile guys … I’m just a winner.

What interests outside of basketball have you developed at Villanova that you might pursue after your playing career?

I major in criminal justice, so something in juvenile courts or criminal courts. I am just into helping people out. After basketball, I would love to get involved with juvenile courts and help inner city kids or anybody that needs help or anyone who’s in trouble. I want to show them what they are currently doing is not the way to go and that there’s another side to life. I want to try and be a role model. I knew that when I grew up, my role models were my family and my parents, I was fortunate; a lot of my friends that I grew up with weren’t fortunate. The kids are our future. We hear it all the time. I just want to help the younger guys grow up and be a big brother for them.