Will Cummings has come a long way in his four-year career with the Temple Owls. As a freshman, Cummings averaged just 1.4 points in 6.3 minutes per game with the Owls and was a frequent member of coach Fran Dunphy's dog house. By his senior year, Cummings averaged 14.8 points, 4.2 assists and 4.1 rebounds on his way to being named to the first-team's of both the All-American Athletic Conference as well as the all-Philadelphia Big 5. He led the 9-win Owls in the 2013-14 season to 26 wins this season, the largest win increase by all Division 1 basketball teams.
He was invited to the Reese's Division-ICollege All-Star game last Friday in Indianapolis, where he tied a game-high of five assists. He's playing in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament in Virginia this week for a chance to showcase his talents to NBA scouts in attendance in an attempt to further his playing career on the biggest stage.
Your career is over with Temple. Obviously this season was an incredible turnaround from a season ago. What can you take from the overall experience this season?
"It was a great experience to just accomplish all the things we accomplished. To go from a 9-win team to a 26-win team in one season is something I'm very proud of. We really just redefined what it's like to play basketball at Temple."
You personally had a great season as well. You were invited to the Reese's All-Star game, where you tied for the game-high in assists. Now you have the Portsmouth Invitational starting up. What can you say about the type of season you had this year?
"I would say that my success was due to hard work. It was a culmination of my turnaround as a player from my freshman to senior year. It's a really good feeling to see all the places where my hard work over the years paid off. To get recognized on a personal scale at that level is incredible. I'm very grateful to be invited to both the All-Star game and the Portsmouth Invitational."
Some previous Temple players have gotten this invitation to Portsmouth recently (Dalton Pepper, Khalif Wyatt, Ramone Moore, Juan Fernandez). What does it mean for you to get the extended invite this year?
"It's just an honor for me to get this invite. I've been really looking forward to get out here and just maximize my opportunity. I'm glad I'm able to showcase my abilities and work my hardest to make it all worthwhile."
Looking back on this past season, how hard was it for you to get all of the Temple transfers on the same page this season with Jaylen Bond, Jesse Morgan and Devin Coleman? As the senior leader of this team, how did you explain what Temple basketball is all about?
"It wasn't really hard to get them on the same page, because they had already had some playing time under their belts at other big programs. All they wanted to do was come here to win. They weren't here for personal accolades or anything like that, they came here to work. Jesse and Devin sat out for a while and I think they were able to figure out how they fit in better with that extra time in practice. None of them were really thrown into the fire, they were able to sit back and learn and it really paid off. They turned our team around and boosted our season."
You mentioned after the loss to Miami in the NIT that you wished Jaylen Bond could've finished out that game. He's such a big piece to what you guys do defensively. How tough was it to not have him out there in such a meaningful moment?
"It was tough because of what he brings to the table like you said on the defensive end and in defensive rebounding. He also opens up a lot of space offensively on ball screens. But, with the way Obi [Enechionyia] was playing in that game, we still had a chance to win at the end of that one. It just didn't work out."
What does this summer hold for Will Cummings as a player?
"A lot of work. It started early so I'm just doing everything I can in the gym or on the court to better my game. I'm also looking at some past film at ways to improve my spacing, what I do defensively and things like that."
What would the ultimate goal be for you in terms of furthering your playing career?
"To be in the NBA. That's the first and foremost primary goal. That's plan A right now and then you worry about plan B when plan A doesn't work. I'm really just putting my whole focus into making the NBA until something changes."
When was the first moment when you were younger where you first noticed how good you were as a player and the thought of making the NBA came through your mind?
"Probably when I was playing AAU ball back when I was 10 years old. I think I had like 40 points in a game back then and I was like 'wow, I might be able to make this a career.' I obviously had to grow and keep up with it, but I'd say that's when it really hit me that I could maybe reach the NBA at some point."
Have you gotten the chance to pick former Temple star Lavoy Allen's brain about being in the NBA and following a similar path to him leading up to the draft?
"Definitely. I was just in Indianapolis for the All-Star game and he happened to be in town with the Pacers then. I ended up having dinner with him two nights in a row and we really caught up about his time at Temple, his time in the NBA and even some of the overseas time that he spent over there. I really picked his brain about all aspects of his career and he definitely helped me a lot as a person who's been there and who's gone through everything that I'm about to find out, even in terms of agents and everything like that. ...It helps a lot to have guys I played with before to contact, like Khalif [Wyatt] or Rahlir [Hollis-Jefferson]. They prove how hard you have to work to reach your goals. They've updated me on the paths they took since they finished college and they really encourage me to stay positive and focused."
How much has this Temple program changed since you started? They added practice facilities and they added Aaron McKie to the coaching staff this summer. How have you seen everything surrounding the program grow since you were a freshman back in 2011?
"It's grown a lot. My freshman year, we practiced in basically one of the rec gyms where the floor is barely finished and you're slipping around during practice. We also had to walk from the practice facility to the arena to get to our locker rooms. We were constantly going outside and back and forth between different buildings for this stuff. It was definitely a struggle at first, but the new practice facility has made everything much easier. It helps us recruit - being able to go from the court, to the training room, to the weight room and to the locker room all in one motion. Adding coach McKie was also a great addition. He adds another set of eyes and a very knowledgeable brain to pick. He really helped us improve defensively this season and he has plenty of stories from his time in the NBA to listen to."
Fran Dunphy has not only been your coach but your mentor over this past four seasons. How much has he meant to your basketball career and on a personal level as kind of a father figure?
"He definitely helped a lot from coming in as a freshman up to my senior year. He helped change my mindset as a player. I did a lot of the typical freshman mistakes when I came in and he made me become a lot tougher. Mentally, he would challenge me every day in practice. There were times where I'd question why I was even here. It got pretty bad at times, but playing in that first game of the American Conference tournament as a senior, you realize how much that stuff kind of helped you. You understand why coach went at me so hard as a freshman and sophomore. I'm really glad he did and it really paid off in the end."