Curtis Sumpter Is Back Home
October 24, 2011 • Guadalajara, Mexico
• 2011 USA Men's Pan American Games Team Roster
• 2011 USA Men's Pan American Games Schedule
• 2011 USA Men's Pan American Games Features
It’s about time.
Curtis Sumpter has spent the last four years playing international basketball, and while he is thankful for the skills he gained, he can’t wait to get back in the groove of the American game. He has made daily strides and feels ready to boost the USA Men’s Pan American Games team toward a gold medal.
Sumpter says the last two weeks have served as a crash course in U.S. hoops, but he has taught his teammates some lessons as well.
“The U.S. game is a lot different,” Sumpter said. “I’ve been away from it for a while. Trying to get back into it is an adjustment. I’ve been working out trying to get myself ready, but it’s still hard to simulate playing at this pace. You can work out all you want, but once you get on the court, running up and down with these guys, it’s a little tough.”
It’s a different world outside the U.S. Take it from a guy who has played in four different countries.
“It’s a luxury to be in the United States and play basketball,” Sumpter said. “It’s definitely going to be a shock to some guys who decide to go over there. Some may adjust to it well and others may not.”
Despite two-a-day practice rigors, foreign teams typically play only one game a week. Some players are not prepared to handle the international routine physically or mentally.
“In some situations they might not have the proper training staff to help you recover. Small things can become big things when you’re over there,” Sumpter said. “You’re thousands of miles away from your family. You’re not on the same time zone so you can’t talk to people when you want to talk to them.”
Players who land with top international clubs may have it pretty good, but the lifestyle abroad is nowhere near what it is in the States. Seven to eight hour bus rides are not uncommon. Nor is an on-time paycheck guaranteed.
Sumpter spent a couple months in Greece last season, and while the weather and the people made life enjoyable for the big man, the country’s economic upheaval wore on him.
“Teams weren’t able to pay guys on time. Sponsors couldn’t afford to shell out money to support a team,” Sumpter said.
Sumpter had to make up his mind to make the best of the situation. “You still want to play basketball. You still want to finish strong, but it’s hard not to think about it if you’re working hard every day and you’re not getting a check.”
Overcoming the language barrier and learning what is acceptable in another culture can also be difficult, but Sumpter returned to the States with plenty of positives.
“Playing overseas helps you grow up faster,” he said. “It helps you become a man a lot earlier.”
The Pan American Games coaches appreciate the dynamic the veteran forward brings to the lineup.
“The D-League game, everything is up and down, up and down. From my European experience, I know how to slow the pace down. [Our coaches] see a different tempo when I’m in the game. They see us taking our time and executing a little better when I’m in the game.”
On the other hand, Sumpter says the American game brings out the best in him.
“Here I am more alert because you never know when you will have to sprint to the other end of the court or to the basket.”
Sumpter believes what he brings to the team and what the squad brings out of him is a key reason why the U.S. will celebrate its first gold medal since 1983 and why he will reach the pinnacle for a second time with USA Basketball.
“I wore the USA uniform when I played with the U20 team in 2004. We won gold in Halifax, but I think this is going to be a greater experience,” he said. “We have a chance to be part of history, so it’s going to be huge. I take pride in that.”
Curtis Sumpter Bio Notes: Is eligible for the 2011 NBA Development League draft. Has played in Greece, France, Belgium and Germany. Selected a member of the 2004 USA Basketball World Championship For Young Men Qualifying Team that finished 5-0 and won the gold medal in Halifax, Canada. Attended Villanova University and played basketball four seasons. Played in 124 games, compiled 1,651 points (13.3 ppg.), 794 rebounds(6.4 rpg.) , 109 assists and 111 steals, while shooting 46.2 percent from the field. Suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee late in his junior season in the first half of VU's 76-65 victory over Florida in the NCAA Tournament and underwent surgery on April 15. Sat out the 2005-06 season as a medical redshirt after re-injuring the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in a practice session on Oct. 19, 2005. As a senior in 2006-07, played in 32 games, averaged 17.4 ppg., 7.2 rpg., and shot 44.7 from the he field, 36.6 percent from 3-point and 80.5 from the foul line. Named 2007 All-Big East Conference first team. Attended Bishop Loughlin (Brooklyn, N.Y.). Named Most Valuable Player of New York City Catholic League as a senior and was selected to the New York Daily News Tri-State team as both a junior and senior. Averaged 18 points and 8.0 rebounds as a junior and finished his career with 1,400 total point.