Sumpter sidelined indefinitely

Courtney Scrib

As workers frantically buzzed around the Pavilion putting the finishing touches on Hoops Mania and students anxiously prepared for a long night of celebration, Curtis Sumpter found himself in a far less spirited environment.

Sitting in front of reporters alongside Coach Jay Wright and displaying a strength and maturity that has garnered him the respect and admiration of coaches, teammates, and fans alike, the senior forward answered questions regarding the latest injury to affect the men’s basketball team.

Last Wednesday during practice, Sumpter landed awkwardly after coming down from a routine lay-up. Initially, Wright and the medical staff diagnosed the injury as a hyperextended knee. On Thursday, however, an MRI revealed that Sumpter had torn his left anterior cruciate ligament. He is scheduled to undergo surgery next month and is expected to make a full recovery.

Unfortunately, the bad news is all too familiar for Sumpter. Last season during Villanova’s second-round NCAA tournament victory over Florida, he tore the same ACL. Following his surgery in April, Sumpter spent the summer rehabilitating and watching his teammates from the sideline. By the first day of practice, Sumpter had made enough progress to be cleared to practice for about 45 minutes a day.

“This is obviously a devastating injury for Curtis and our program,” Wright said at last Friday’s press conference. “Fortunately, Curtis is incredibly strong, physically and emotionally. I know he will bounce back stronger and better than ever.”

While many seem to be speculating if and when the 6-foot-7 Wooden Award finalist will be making his return this season, Sumpter’s status remains to be determined. The only thing that is certain is that neither he nor Wright will rush Sumpter’s recovery.

“We’re going to take our time,” Wright said. “We plan to be very cautious as we move ahead. This is an incredibly gifted young man and he will be given as much time as he needs to fully recuperate.”

Often considered to be Villanova’s most versatile player, Sumpter led the team in rebounds (7.2 per game) and was the third-leading scorer (15.5 points per game) last season. With the team’s top five preseason ranking and Final Four aspirations, Sumpter was especially looking forward to playing alongside classmates Allan Ray, Randy Foye and Jason Fraser in their final year.

“Looking back four years ago, we all decided to come here with a vision, to graduate together and bring Villanova back to where it was,” Sumpter said. “To possibly not be a part of that is the hardest thing for me right now. The toughest thing for me is to go out there and watch those guys and me not be a part of it.”

Though it would be easy for Sumpter to feel sorry for himself, he chooses instead to embrace the “work hard, keep the right attitude” philosophy that characterizes the Villanova basketball program.

“I don’t even know what to feel right now,” Sumpter admitted, “[but] I’m going to try and be strong for myself and my teammates, and try to cheer them on this year.”