By Ryan Clark
Edmond Sumner is busy. There’s rehab to do, and classwork, and he still has to text some guys from the team to offer advice.
Then there’s the game tonight. He’ll have to be ready to settle in and watch when Xavier takes on Maryland in the NCAA’s first round in Orlando. He won’t be playing, you see, because he is still injured, still not able to explode to the basket or run or jump like normal. Instead, he has to do what he can for his team from about 900 miles away.
“There’s a different kind of pressure now,” he says. “When I got hurt, I knew people would say, ‘Xavier won’t be the same. Xavier is done.’ So I have to be there for them to help in any way I can. I know I am still a big piece of the team, and we can still play a lot of basketball.”
So he will keep in communication with coaches and teammates. He will offer guidance and criticism. He will pass along inspirational messages when he feels it’s necessary.
Of course, none of this has gone the way he thought it would. The season was surging along, and Xavier was holding its place among the country’s top 25 basketball teams. Then, in late January against St. John’s, Sumner drove to the hoop and landed awkwardly. X fans held their collective breath. But the news would not be good.
It was a torn ACL in his left knee. Season over.
“Right after, I was so heartbroken,” Sumner says. “All I could really do was cry. I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. It was just dark.”
And it was Head Coach Chris Mack and a heart-to-heart conversation that helped him turned the corner.
“If this is the worst thing that happens to you in life, then you’ve lived a pretty good life,” Mack told him.
“I realized I needed to stop the pity party,” Sumner says. “I needed to come back better. I want to jump higher, be faster, and I’ve seen players do that. I will, too.”
Sumner says his rehabilitation is going right on schedule but that he won’t rush a return, and that his progress helps him keep his spirits up. “I had to go deep within myself,” he says. “With time, with going through my surgery, and seeing myself progress and get better each day, that helps me realize I will get better. It helps a lot. But I don’t want to get hurt again, so I won’t rush. I’m right on track.”
But he realizes his work with this team is ongoing. He’s in constant contact with the player who had to assume his starting role—freshman point guard Quentin Goodin.
“I had to put myself in his shoes,” Sumner says. “(Goodin) was just thrown into the fire, like he’s running around like a chicken with his head cut off. I know he’s good, but there’s a big difference between high school and college. You can’t get too high or too low. You can’t play tense. He just needed experience. As a sophomore, he’s going to be crazy good.”
Goodin agreed with the assessment.
“He’s always been a mentor for me, and he still is,” Goodin said before Xavier’s shootaround Wednesday. “We text everyday. He’ll send me critiques and suggestions. He talks about me keeping my composure and not getting too excited. He’s taught me everything.”
Sumner says you see the game in a different way on television, or from the sidelines.
“You see so much more,” he says. “You see all the things we can do better.”
Having that extra pair of eyes is valuable, especially when you have to start a young point guard, says Associate Head Coach Travis Steele.
“Edmond has a wealth of experience, which is something Quentin doesn’t have,” Steele said. “Edmond knows what we want out of that position, and sometimes it’s better to hear some things from your peers rather than your coaches. But Edmond gives him confidence. Sometimes, Quentin may be a little unsure of himself, and talking with Ed keeps his confidence up. We all believe in him, but sometimes he needs to be reminded.”
“I know how good he can be,” Sumner says. “I know how good this team can be.”
On the recent trip to New York for the Big East Tournament, Sumner celebrated a Xavier win by making several appearances on various social media networks, taking fans behind the scenes and, in one moment, snapping a selfie with Assistant Coach Luke Murray’s famous father, Bill.
“It wasn’t the first time I’d met him,” Sumner says. “He’s a cool guy. And I just wanted to show people more of my personality when we were there. We had fun.”
It’s always more fun when you win, and Sumner says he will do what he can to pull his team through Thursday night.
“Some of the guys know what the NCAA Tournament is like, but for guys like (RaShid Gaston) and (Malcolm Bernard), this is their first and last go-round,” Sumner says. “I remember what my first tournament game was like—it was like playing my very first game ever, all over again. You can’t get caught up in the bright lights. But you might as well give it your all. You might as well make history.”