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9/02/2008 11:00:00 AM
Q&A with ... BYU's Lee Cummard
Lee Cummard withdrew from the draft to return to BYU and attempt a Davidson-like NCAA run.
The latest subject in our Hoops Q&A series is BYU's Lee Cummard, a 6-foot-7 shooting guard who is back with the Cougars for his senior season after initially declaring for the NBA draft in April. Cummard was the Mountain West Conference's Co-Player of the Year in 2008 after averaging 15.8 points (on 47.2 percent three-point shooting) and 6.3 rebounds per game. The following is an edited transcript of our conversation:
Luke Winn: It was just announced that you'll be playing the first hoops game at University of Phoenix Stadium, against Arizona State on Dec. 20. As a local [Mesa, Ariz.] boy, you were at one point pretty dead-set on playing for the Sun Devils. What happened to change your mind?
Lee Cummard: I did grow up wanting to play at ASU, to stay around home and play in front of a whole crowd of family members. I went on visits to both of them [ASU and BYU] in September of my senior year, and before the visit, even, I was dead-set on ASU. I was kind of just taking [the trip to] BYU to get a few family members off of my back. To them I was just like, 'OK, I'll take the visit if you really want me to.' I ended up liking it -- BYU did a great job recruiting me.
LW: So how did your family members go about bugging you to visit BYU?
LC: They would just make subtle hints, like 'Oh, you should visit BYU, just to see what it's like.' My mom did that. And I had some aunts and uncles who were pushing for it too. I said what the heck. BYU actually ended up being my first visit, and ASU was the second, and after that I knew I was choosing one of those two. I figured that I didn't need to waste my time or other schools' time by making any more visits.
LW: You're one of the rare college basketball players who is married with a child [Lee Casey Cummard Jr., born in July of '07]. I assume it might have been tougher, given the culture of the school, to go to ASU as a married family guy than it is to be at BYU.
LC: The culture is completely different at both places. Neither of them are better than the other -- but here at BYU, I've made a lot of friends who are in the same boat: Poor, married students trying to get the most out of college that they can. I think it's a little easier to be married with a kid up [in Provo].
I think if I had gone to ASU, I would have hung closer to my family, since they're all down there. I wouldn't have had the opportunity to meet new people, and start new relationships with new friends. I've really had a great time doing that.
LW: The stories of your in-home recruiting visits are legendary; they were more like a convention than an intimate meeting. Can you describe what the scene was like when a college coach came to your house in Mesa?
LC: He would be greeted by probably between 40 and 80 people, all relatives or neighbors who wanted to come over and see what it was all about. They all kind of went through the whole process with me. There were times when it was just me and the coach talking, or me and my parents and the coaches, but when they came for the [official in-home] visit, it would be that big group, with a big spread of food out, and we'd all eat and chat. If the coaches wanted to make their presentation, we'd do that too. Afterwards I would always like to hear everybody's perceptions of the coach, and what they thought about the school.
LW: So everyone who was there would chime in with an opinion?
LC: Some more than others. But definitely, if I asked them for their reaction, they would share it.
LW: What's the funniest reaction you ever received from a coach? I assume a few of them had to be taken aback by the crowd.
LC: They all would say, this is the biggest group I've ever come into a home visit with. One of funny story is, we had a sno-cone machine at the house -- I don't know if it was my mom's, but we had it -- because we had about 60 people over. [BYU] coach [Dave] Rose was there; he wasn't the head coach yet but he came along on the visit. I remember him saying something like, 'You know, I've been served everything there is to eat in a home visit, but I've never had a sno-cone.
LW: When you made the decision, in June, to pull out of the draft and go back to BYU as a senior, how many people did you involve in that? Did you keep the circle as wide as you did in recruiting?
LC: At the time, I was living at home, so there were a lot of people around. I think they would see all the cars parked outside and just wander over, or my mom would do the calling and the invitations. I really do take into consideration a lot of people's opinions. I like to see all sides of it, all the pros and cons, but this [decision] probably stayed in a smaller group in the end. I talked with my coach, my family, my wife, my brothers, my high-school coach. It stayed a little bit closer to the vest.
LW: What did it come down to, in the end?
LC: A big thing was the thought of what kind of season I could have [as a senior], and what kind of legacy I could leave here at BYU. Hopefully, it's a good one. I think it's a win-win situation. Going through the whole [draft workout] process, the feedback I got was, 'You could be a pro now if you would like, and chance it,' or, a lot of people said, 'You could possibly be a first-rounder next year.' So that played into it. I think I'll have a great time, leave my mark here at BYU, and in the Mountain West, and in the NCAAs and then move on.
LW: Last offseason you had a bigger event happen -- the birth of your first child. How does having a kid at school affect your college experience?
LC: Just having a son changes your perception of life. But at the same time, my wife [Sarah, also a BYU student] has been understanding of the fact that the reason we're up here at BYU is for basketball, and a lot of good things can come from that. She's such a great mom, and she's really helpful. You just have to balance your time and do what's most important as a parent. If you have to miss a homework assignment because your family needs you, then so be it.
LW: As a kid, you were notoriously skinny -- so much so that I read you were nicknamed 'Leethiopia.' How did it come about, and did it stick through high school?
LC: I got that nickname in elementary school, and my mom jokingly kept it around. None of my high-school teammates kept it up, but it became kind of a family joke that kept going.
LW: What do you get called now, at BYU?
LC: My teammates call me a lot of stuff. I'll just leave it at that.
LW: You're not going to give us any of them?
LC: Well ... a few. They call me Lee-Z, LeRoy, Big Pipes and Deez Salty.
LW: Deez Salty?
LC: That's just what they call me. I don't know.
LW: I read about a promise, from your strength coach at BYU, that if you broke 190 pounds, you wouldn't have to wear a shirt in the weight room ever again. Your bio lists you at 185 -- have you reached the goal yet?
LC: I'm still not all the way there. When that day happens, though, it's going to be glorious at BYU. I'll never have my shirt on again in that weight room.
LW: So that's where Big Pipes comes from.
LC: There are a few more weight room nicknames to go with that, but we'll just leave it at Big Pipes.
LW: Your wife was quoted as saying that you like to admire yourself in front of the mirror.
LC: Occasionally that happens. I'll get up in the morning, and before I get in the shower, I've gotta take a look, and see how all that hard work is paying off.
LW: I saw the BYU-TV segment on YouTube where you played the reporter, and introduced yourself as Ron Burgundy. How did you not sign off with 'You Stay Classy, Provo'?
LC: I've never seen Anchorman all the way through -- that's why I didn't know about that line. The Ron Burgundy bit was just kind of a spur-of-the-moment thing. Our media guy came in and said, 'You're going to do the interviews today.'
LW: Mark West was reportedly your favorite Phoenix Sun during their glory days, when you were a kid in Mesa. A 6-10 center was your favorite guy? Why not a shooter?
LC: I just always liked [West]. I was big into the Suns, and that year they went to the Finals, I probably watched 99 percent of their games. And [West] was my guy. Obviously I liked Charles Barkley, too -- don't get me wrong -- but Mark was the kind of unsung guy that I always liked. I actually got a chance to meet him when the Suns brought me in for a workout [in May, leading up the draft].
LW: Did you tell him that he was your favorite Sun?
LC: Oh, of course. He was my guy! I had to let him know that. The Big Cat. He was a great guy, too.
LW: And what was his reaction?
LC: He just kind of jokingly laughed. I don't think it meant all that much to him.
LW: Switching gears here. Before you started your career at BYU, you went on an LDS [Church of Latter-Day Saints] Mission to Nashville for a year. How much basketball did you get to play during that time?
LC: On a mission, you get about 30 minutes a day to workout. Where I was at, we had a little gym with a weight room and a treadmill. And then once a week we got a bunch of missionaries together and played at a church, which was pretty good. We had some good runs.
LW: And what was life like as a missionary?
LC: It's all basically structured to proselytize and get out and talk to people and preach the gospel. A basic day is like this: You usually get up at 6:30, and that's when you work out, until 7, then you'd have two hours, maybe two and a half, to get ready and eat breakfast, and study on your own, and then either a half hour to an hour of studying with your companion, who's with you all the time. Then from maybe 9 or 9:30 until 9:30 at night, you're out meeting people, knocking on doors, trying to talk to whoever you can. All in hopes of helping someone and getting a chance to share your beliefs and your faith.
LW: Did you keep up with college basketball at all during that time?
LC: I would get letters from my family that let me know about things, but really, I didn't keep up much at all.
LW: Did any schools try to re-recruit you during that time? Technically, I think, you were fair game to be recruited during that time [after former BYU coach Steve Cleveland left for Fresno State].
LC: No, not really. When coach Cleveland left, no one came right to me, but my high-school coach wanted me to make sure of where I wanted to play. Basically, I sat down with coach Rose the next day, and he kind of re-recruited me, because I was hearing rumors that there were others schools who wanted to get back into it.
LW: You did just one year of an LDS mission rather than two -- which you initially said you were planning on doing [and then were going to start playing college basketball in '06-07]. Why did you end up coming to BYU sooner?
LC: It was just a personal decision. In the LDS faith, a young man isn't forced to go on a mission, but if he goes, it's usually for two years. Because of where I stood at that point, and what I wanted to do with my life, it was just a personal decision to go to college [after one year in Nashville].
LW: Your current team at BYU has two elite three-point shooters in you [who hit 60 last season] and Jonathan Tavernari [who had 88]. Have you had any memorable shooting competitions with Tavernari?
LC: I don't have any contests with him. I usually mess around with guys who can't shoot, just for fun. I would say John and I get after it in pickup games, though -- that's where we compete. Because our team is usually a little shallow at the four spot, in pickup ball in the summer, I'm usually playing the four and I'm matched up with [Tavernari] so we can get the best runs we can. Some days it'll get heated, but fortunately my team usually wins.
LW: What impact will the new three-point line have on college hoops?
LC: The biggest difference is going to be for guys driving and getting into the lane. It's going to spread the floor a little bit more, and for drives to the hole from the perimeter, slow white guys like myself need all the extra space we can get. So I hope it helps. As for percentages, for the guys that can already shoot it well, I don't see their stats going down from an extra foot away.
LW: So you and Tavernari will be fine.
LC: That's well within our range. And probably for most shooters, it's well within theirs.
LW: Give me three shooters in college hoops -- but not on BYU -- that you admire.
LC: I kept my eye on Jaycee Carroll [of Utah State] last year. He hit a lot of threes, and I thought he was a great player. Usually I just paid attention to guys on teams that we played, or guys in our conference. I get so wrapped up in our season that I'm not watching much else.
LW: What about Stephen Curry, from Davidson?
LC: I was a huge fan of the season he just had, and what he did for that school. I hope he has another season like that. That was actually one of the thoughts that I had, during the whole process of deciding whether or not to come back for my senior year: If a small school like Davidson can do what it did with Curry [and go to the Elite Eight], why can't BYU make it to the Final Four?