Sumner learning how to make his voice heard

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January 23, 2008

12:56 AM

__Players, coaches try to get quiet sophomore to speak up__

It’s not unusual for men’s basketball PA announcer Chuck Wolf to avoid mentioning sophomore forward Danny Sumner’s name for long stretches during home games at Kaplan Arena. But this clearly isn’t the fault of his not being a regular contributor to the team.

p. During last Saturday’s 61-51 win over Towson, Sumner started his fifth game in a row, played 24 minutes and chipped in 10 points. The simple explanation for this anomaly is that Sumner, known for his tranquil demeanor both on and off the court, scores in short, rapid-fire bursts.

p. With sophomore point guard David Schneider running most of the Tribe’s plays through senior forward Laimis Kisielius and senior three-point specialist Nathan Mann, Sumner has seen a limited amount of offensive touches, even though he ranks third on the team in scoring with 9.1 points per game this season. However, when the ball has been in his hands, he has scored with precision in the paint and beyond the three-point line, displaying versatility as a forward and guard.

p. Last Saturday, after a relatively quiet first half against Towson, Sumner readied himself to strike again. This time he caught an outlet pass from Schneider at midcourt with 6:58 remaining before halftime and took off toward the basket. For a few seconds, the spotlight shone on Sumner. As the five defenders and his four teammates looked on, he threw down a thunderous two-handed dunk, bringing most of the 2,781 fans at Kaplan Arena to their feet in jubilation and promptly causing Towson to call a timeout to slow the Tribe’s momentum.

p. Walking back to the bench, in the midst of slapping high-fives with teammates, Sumner’s steely, emotionless face cracked for the first time all game as he flashed a rare smile.

p. “I look laid back when I play, but I’m really intense on the inside,” he said.

p. For a fleeting second, the intensity disappeared as he seemed to be lost in the moment with teammates.

p. Saturday, Sumner scored half of his points in the game’s first 60 seconds. Cutting to the basket for a lay-up, he displayed his breakaway speed on the opening possession. For an encore performance, he drained a three-pointer in his defender’s face. After that, he only handled the ball on a few possessions before his aforementioned dunk.

p. “He’s the type of player who can have a quiet 15 minutes and then he’ll explode,” Mann said.

p. Highlight reel dunks, quick scoring bursts and a quiet personality on and off the court have all helped Sumner earn a reputation as a silent assassin on a team that has reeled off five consecutive CAA victories for the first time in a decade. In the Tribe’s current five-game winning streak, all starts for Sumner, he has averaged 26.8 minutes of playing time, well above his season average of 20.9 minutes.

p. Well known for his tranquil demeanor, Sumner has at times been overlooked, not only by home fans, but even by teammates on the court. Last Wednesday, during one of the Tribe’s fast breaks against Northeastern, a wide-open Sumner had a clear lane to the basket but never received a pass from Schneider.

p. Off the court, Sumner’s teammates and coaches may only hear him speak a few words.

p. “It’s been a group effort to get him to talk more,” Mann said. “It’s held him back a little bit, not being really vocal.”

p. During practices and games, Mann and Head Coach Tony Shaver hope Sumner will speak up, especially on the defensive side of the ball, where team communication is essential.

p. “Sometimes, he can be painfully quiet,” Shaver said.

p. While he sees room for improvement in Sumner’s defense, Shaver said there have been games this season when he’s played so well he can’t take him out except to give him a moment to catch his breath. Case in point was a 69-66 comeback victory against James Madison Jan. 9, in which Sumner played all but five minutes and scored 17 points, with Kisielius in street clothes on the sideline. During January of last season, Sumner was simply hoping for a chance to prove himself as the third or fourth player off the bench.

p. For most of his freshman year, he struggled to learn the Tribe’s offensive scheme and saw sporadic playing time. In the 21 games he played, Sumner shot only 37 percent from the floor, an abysmal 23 percent from the foul line and 18 percent from three-point range.

p. “It’s a tough offense to learn right away and I wasn’t ready to step into it last season,” Sumner said. “I was expecting a lot of playing time coming in last season and I didn’t get it. I think that made me go out this summer and work on everything.”

p. During the off season, Sumner committed himself to a rigid training routine. Not only did he bulk up in the weight room, adding 15 pounds of muscle to his 6’7’’ frame, but he also worked on improving his three-point and field goal percentages. Now the added strength and shooting practice are paying off in big ways. Through 17 games this season, Sumner is the Tribe’s third-leading scorer, making over half of his shots, 66 percent of his free throws and 38 percent beyond the three-point arc.

p. “This year has really been his coming-out party,” Mann said.
Sumner is still not completely satisfied with his play this season and wants to be more consistent. Against Northeastern, he relied almost entirely on his three-point shot and only finished with three points. During Saturday’s game a Towson defender stole the ball right out of Sumner’s hands when he tried a post up move.

p. “I need to work on driving and getting to the basket. I’m a better player when I start inside and work my way outside,” Sumner said. “It builds my confidence and everything starts flowing from there.”

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