Wherever he is on the court, Talbot Cummard does not need to look far to find his biggest fans.
They sit in the middle of the front row, inches away from the hardwood, and hold no signs. Instead, Cummard’s family — especially his uncles — loudly cheer him on or criticize the referees.
“It makes you want to go make a big play,” Cummard said.
He did just that against Gilbert in a summer league matchup. Cummard threw up a shot at the end of the first quarter and beat the buzzer as his shot fell through the net. The rising senior could hear his family screaming from the stands.
Cummard’s fanbase may seem similar to many high school basketball players across the country. However, his is unique in that the Cummard family has a longstanding legacy at Mesa High School.
Talbot’s father, brother, six uncles and two cousins attended the school, most of whom played for the Jackrabbits. One of these relatives, Lee Cummard, was the 2004 Arizona Player of the Year en route to a collegiate career at Brigham Young University, where he is now an assistant coach for the Cougars’ women’s basketball team.
One of Talbot’s cousins, Parker, graduated last season, while Conway is a sophomore at Mesa and will be his teammate on Varsity for a second consecutive season.
“It’s just a basketball family,” Mesa head coach Scott Stansberry said. “They love basketball, competitors and there’s been some big names that come from that family. (Talbot) is the next one.”
Heading into his senior season, Talbot is poised for a bigger role following the graduation of Mesa’s top three leading scorers from the 2020-21 campaign. He averaged 6.4 points and 1.9 rebounds per game during a junior season in which he largely played a defensive role.
Now, the situation has changed, leading Talbot — one of Mesa’s leaders — to spend the offseason attacking the basket and shooting the ball in anticipation of increased responsibility on the offensive end.
However, some familiarity will remain. A family member, Conway, will still don the purple-and-yellow jersey beside him. At one point, Stansberry had four Cummards on his 2019-20 Varsity roster: Talbot, Parker, Cooper and Tyton — Talbot’s brother.
Talbot greatly enjoys being able to walk off the court after practice and see his brother or cousins at home. He feels they can relate to each other really well and have some great conversations.
On the court, he recalls running and conditioning drills with his teammates as a formative experience for family bonding.
“When we’re having a tough practice, when Coach is on us, we can just look over and laugh because it’s your cousin right there going through the same thing,” Talbot said.
Now the most senior Cummard at Mesa, Talbot tries not to think about the legacy of his uncle Lee and the pressure it may create. However, he does sometimes call on him for advice since “he’s lived it.”
In addition to Lee, Talbot’s cousin David parlayed his high school skillset into the college game. He currently plays at Northern Arizona University under coach Shane Burcar, Mesa’s previous head coach. Stansberry worked with him as an assistant from 2011-2015.
Mesa’s current coach said he has received emails and calls from colleges expressing interest in Talbot. Stansberry believes the six-foot-four guard/forward will continue playing at the next level. He first saw Talbot play as a second grader at summer basketball camps and quickly recognized his competitiveness and a desire to win in tag and knockout.
Arriving at Mesa after coaching at Apache Junction High School, his first season with the Jackrabbits coincided with Talbot’s freshman year.
“You can see it from… (Talbot) stepping on the court as a freshman,” Stansberry said. “I knew he was going to be a big-time player for our program. You can pick those kids out and know who’s gonna be special right away. You just know.”
Now, it is Talbot’s time to lead the Jackrabbits. Guard Steven Cervantes (16.1 points), forward Tanner Crawford (13.0 points) and guard Jimari Grayson (11.8 points) have graduated. Mesa has a lot of momentum coming off a 16-2 season, especially as Talbot — the reigning Defensive Player of the Year — returns.
He is not only ready for the responsibility on both sides of the ball. He is ready to continue the Cummard family legacy.
“Every game, you got eyes on you,” Talbot said. “You’re gonna hear about if you play good or play bad after, so it’s a lot of pressure. But it’s really fun to see them after a big play or a big stop when you need some energy or motivation.”
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