Edmund Sumner, Base de 2.6 de altura esta considerado como el heredero de Michael Jordan.
La primera obligación de un entrenador es de garantizar una completa preparación física a los jugadores. Sumner, durante su primera temporada de Basket universitaria estuvó a punto de colgar las botas debido a los dolores persistentes de Tendenitis Patellar o la "enfermedad de los salteadores". Después de 1 año de tratamiento especializado por el equipo medico de Xavier, consistente en fortalecer a la musculatura de la zona del tendón patullar, inyecciones de plasma enriquecida por plateles y paseos sobre "aire" de Alter-G (entre otros tratamientos), Sumner se ha demostrado como uno de las revelaciones de la temporada del Basket en USA y sucesor según los expertos del gran Michael Jordan.
Edmond Sumner knew he was past the point of pain when he didn’t want to play basketball anymore.
“I was like, ‘This is killing me too much,’ ” he says. “I was just in so much pain just running up and down the floor. That was probably the most difficult time in my life — to have to realize that I probably wouldn't be playing.”
The decision to redshirt just months after arriving at Xavier a season ago marked a first for Sumner, the first time he’d be “shut out,” as he describes it, from doing what he loved for a whole year. His parents helped him through it as did his faith, he says.
But the season away from basketball set the foundation for Sumner’s breakout redshirt freshman year this season; the speedy point guard is averaging 11.4 points, 3.2 assists and 1.3 steals per game for the fifth-ranked Musketeers.
And he’s doing it on the knees that betrayed him a year ago.
The root of the issue was simple, and simply painful: He had patellar tendinitis, an injury to the tendon connecting Sumner’s kneecap to his shinbone, and knee issues had popped up occasionally throughout high school. Often called “jumper’s knee,” patellar tendinitis most often affects athletes in sports like basketball and volleyball.
Quickly, Sumner’s outlook shifted; instead of the quiet, 6-6 guard from Detroit hoping to make an immediate impact with the Musketeers, he’d be spending most of his first winter on the sidelines and in the weight room. He couldn’t even practice on the court with the team — his knees needed rest that badly. He could walk, but not run. Stand, squat, lift, but not jump.
“We really focused in on strength — strengthening the lower leg muscles, the quadriceps, hamstring, hips, glutes, all of those muscles that are intricate — and then stabilizing the knees,” Xavier associate head athletic trainer David Fluker says.
Sumner also received platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections, but his condition did not require surgery. Part of the issue, head strength and conditioning coach Matt Jennings says, was Sumner’s growth spurt during high school. Sumner had never really rested, or focused on recovery, during his high school career. “Maintenance and recovery,” as Fluker puts it, was vital, icing knees after every workout, no matter how light or heavy. That’s one of the areas he and Sumner focused on last year and still do.
Jennings worked on making Sumner stronger and bigger. He estimates the rail-thin Sumner put on about 20 pounds while still trying to alleviate the pressure put on his knees by building up the muscles that support them.
“If you look in a mirror, you train what you see,” Jennings says. “You forget about the backside of your body, so in order for your knees to get healthy and safe, you really have to take a two-to-one approach and the backside of your body with your glutes, your hamstrings, your calves, etc., everything that supports that knee, you have to work that twice as hard as the front side.”
One vital piece to Sumner’s training was the use of an Alter-G treadmill at Beyond Exercise, a physical therapy company in town. He and Jennings would go there so that Sumner could run without putting pressure on his knees.
“The Alter-G is basically just running on air, so it's a NASA technology for astronauts, and you have a pair of Spandex that has a zipper in it,” Jennings says of the anti-gravity treadmill. “You zip into this bag, the bag fills with air, and you're basically just running on air essentially.”
He conditioned Sumner in various ways beyond the Alter-G for running; Sumner used a SkiErg for upper-body work in addition to weight lifting centered on building a strong core in addition to specific leg muscles with everything from leg presses to trap-bar pulls and goblet squats. The key for Sumner, like all athletes, was keeping the weight in his heels throughout the reps, which takes stress away from the knees.
“We did a lot of strengthening my hips and all the muscles around it because they were all weak, so that was causing me to jump wrong, land wrong, and that was putting more pressure on my patellar tendon,” Sumner says.
The toughest part, Sumner says, was sitting out during his team’s practices. He’d pay attention during planning sessions and the like because, as point guard, he needed to know the playbook and strategy. But he couldn’t really take the court again until after last season ended.
All that recovery and strengthening worked wonders. During the offseason, teammate Trevon Bluiett saw the effect instantly.
“You could definitely see the difference just from his exploding,” Bluiett says. “He was already explosive, but just even more explosive because his knee pains were gone. You could see everything.”
Says Sumner: “Every time I used to jump, it just hurt. I had to be super fully warmed up. The first workout I could tell the difference; I could tell I was rusty and all that, but actual pain from my knees was just a big difference.”
Says Xavier coach Chris Mack: “It’s night and day from a year ago.”
Sumner’s knees — which sometimes get sore at this point in the season, but nothing like the pain of the past — give him the launching pad he needed to have the season he’s had. He’s been one of the best freshmen in the nation, having been named theBig East’s rookie of the week five times despite missing time after suffering a scary concussion at Villanova earlier this season. Along with Bluiett, he is the key to what could be the best Xavier team Mack has had yet. They sit at second in the Big East with their rematch against No. 1 Villanova looming Wednesday night. Sumner’s been a big reason for that.
An aspiring computer science major, Sumner is good at taking things apart and putting them back together; he did that with a MacBook once and “upgraded it,” as he puts it. He did the same thing with his body, taking himself apart and putting himself — and his knees — back together.
And he’s upgraded.