Lee Cummard – The State's Secret is Out

Rocketing up the national rankings over the last few months, Mesa high school basketball star Lee Cummard has firmly established himself among the best prep wings in the West. In the opinion of DevilsDigest, Cummard is the best basketball prospect in Arizona in the 2004 class.

It wasn't always this way for Lee Cummard. Now one of the best players in all of Arizona, Cummard grew up taking his share of hard knocks in intense, regular games with his father and five older brothers. His brothers are all at least a few years older ranging to ten years his senior and at the time, Lee was seriously outsized and outclassed. "We had some heated basketball games," he says, "It was tough but I think I'm better for it."

As he entered his freshmen year of high school, Cummard stood a rail-thin 6-2, but by last summer he had sprouted to at least 6-5 making him the tallest person in his family at age 16. A year later, he's 6-7, and playing on the wing for what looks to be one of the top five high schools in the region next year. When Cummard's family gets the chance to play basketball together now, things are quite different. "Yeah," Cummard laughs modestly, "It is a little different."

When you first see Cummard play with the fire, toughness and intensity that he seemingly always carries around, it makes you wonder where it comes from. As soon as you hear "five older brothers" it clears things up fairly quickly. Cummard is a vicious competitor. He'll glare at referees, opposing players, even seemingly innocent bystanders. Make no mistake, when you're on the floor with Cummard you're on his floor, and it doesn't even matter if you're the home team.

As hard as Cummard plays, he just might out-trump his toughness with his intelligence. This is a player with tremendous feel for the game and the ability to understand what needs to be done, and the talent to do it. Defensively, his length and athleticism make him a potent threat anywhere on the floor. He'll step into passing lanes, showing great anticipation and poise and he'll deny the basketball to an opposing team's key scorer.

Offensively Cummard is tremendously skilled. With the ball in his hand he moves effortlessly around the court or in a hurry to the basket. He uses both hands and his body in a manner that beguiles his age and experience. It's no wonder to find out that his favorite players to watch include skilled, versatile forwards like Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, and Andrei Kirilenko. Cummard has an advanced jump shot with nice elevation, form and rotation. He's athletic enough to play either shooting guard or small forward and his game is without serious flaw.

College coaches were perhaps a little slow to take notice of Cummard's potential. Be it the fact that he didn't really participate in a lot of high profile events in the past year, or the fact that he plays in a region that is often under-publicized nationally Cummard hasn't been seen on any national top 100 lists. But he certainly is a top-100 caliber player.

At the Adidas Big Time a couple weeks ago, Cummard's Arizona Cagers White squad played in an out-of-the-way gymnasium in front of a number of college coaches on day one and that figure seemingly grew with each performance until as many as fifty coaches were in attendance for the team late in the week.

Cummard played well enough to impress recruiting analysts to the point where he's now being considered at least among the best wings on the West Coast. Insiders.com analysts Greg Hicks and Tracy Pierson are apparently seriously considering moving Cummard to the top of the 2004 shooting guard regional rankings. Such a move would jump him above Duke-pledge Demarcus Nelson and UCLA-commit Aaron Afflalo among others. "That's a real honor," Cummard says sincerely, "When my teammate told me that and who I'd be ahead of [if it happens] it really blew me away."

Arizona State is certainly blown away by Cummard and offered the East Valley star a full scholarship opportunity earlier this summer at the Sun Devil team camp. Cummard currently considers ASU his strong favorite, but he's determined to take official visits in the fall, probably all five. "I almost feel like I'd be stupid if I don't [take all five]. It's important to see what's out there."

Since Cummard is a LDS Church member who doesn't play on Sundays in high school, a few natural questions exist: Will he go on a LDS mission and if so, when, and how much of a factor will his religious beliefs play into his college decision? The answers might surprise some.

While Cummard insists that he'll take a LDS mission before he attends college, he'll sign this fall and be obligated to attend whichever school he signs with when he returns. Student-athletes that play for a year and then depart are considered "free agents" upon their return. That won't be the case with Cummard. He also says, "It will be different in college. That whole LDS thing isn't that big of a deal to me."

Not only will Cummard play on Sundays in college, but he doesn't plan on his religion being a determining influence on where he goes. He's being recruited by Iowa State, Oregon State, Utah and BYU among a host of others, and he is currently attending the Utah basketball camp.

While he won't be playing college basketball for another three years, this fall Arizonans will have a sneak preview at what might be the next great college prospect to come out of the Phoenix metro-area. It's even possible they might be watching a future Sun Devil. They will be watching the best in-state prospect in the 2004 class.

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