Cummings bringing back soul of Pitt basketball

What Midland native said of the season, other say of his impact
Nelly Cummings slapping five with Oakland Zoo
Photo credit Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) – It’s a simple whistle that signifies all is right in Nelly Cummings world.

It’s a whistle he’s heard since he could ever remember. He heard it growing up, in high school, occasionally at Bowling Green and then Colgate. Now he hears it every game since he decided to return home. It doesn’t matter how many fans or how loud it is, that sound means Nelly is home.

“My mom has a unique whistle that I hear no matter where I’m at on Earth,” Cummings said during The Jeff Capel Show on the Pitt Panthers Radio Network and 93.7 The Fan. “I always hear that and I know where she’s at.”

Not just her, but his whole family. They all sit together. After getting a degree in sociology from Colgate and leading them to a pair of NCAA appearances, Cummings lives out the dream of playing for Pitt and then catching up with mom after.

“(She’s) a huge basketball fan,” Cummings said. “Immediately after the game, we always have a time where we talk about the game, results, what happened. She knows the game. The biggest cheerleader and biggest critic too.”

It’s part of what has made the final season of his college career special. That and his teammates.

“We got a whole bunch of guys that are focused on one thing, winning,” Cummings said on 93.7 The Fan. “I think when you have that, it allows everybody to fit into a role. We are all focused on winning at the end of the day, we are not focused on the shine. It’s all about Pitt winning. When Pitt wins, we are all happy. We are all pushing to the same thing which allows everybody to fit into it.”

He says as the point guard, all pulling the same direction allows him to play free. The fact that six different players have been the leading scorer allows him to not worry about scoring to win games. He says he can be a facilitator, a leader, focused on getting defensive stops. Whatever it takes to impact a game.

He’s had his games where they needed his scoring, a Pitt career-high 24 points against Sacred Heart. The 22 points, including 6-11 shooting from three, in a win at Syracuse. Or the most recent, the 21 points including nine consecutive points at North Carolina.

Cummings said he hasn’t thought big picture about how this 6’ guard from a small school ended up with huge games against historic ACC powers. He’ll do that at some point after the season. He’s focused on his teammates that he saw something special in from the first days back in the same gym where he once trained with Brandin Knight as a young kid. This team, his team, has combined the potential with work and it’s created what he called a special recipe for success.

“One of the toughest guys I’ve ever met,” said teammate Aiden Fisch during The Jeff Capel Show. “Just an absolute competitor. I’ve known Nelly for a while. He’s always been overlooked, smaller guard, not good enough to do this, whatever they may say. He’s got a chip on his shoulder that’s just the fact of the matter and he’s here to prove everyone wrong.”

Capel said he remembers recruiting Nelly after he entered the transfer portal. He went to Midland and met his grandparents, his mom and his father. It was a day that stuck with him.

“The thing I will never forget Nelly and his dad said we know the soul of this program because we grew up with it,” Capel explained. “We know it and we know how to bring it back and that’s what we want to do.”

Cummings says he really doesn’t know how to describe what having 15 wins and nine in the ACC at this point means. It’s everything he could have imagined. This was always the place he saw in his dreams. The hardest part so far is coming up with tickets for every home game for his family and friends to watch him play.

“It means a lot,” Cummings said. “I’m a guy that’s always been doubted my whole career. To be at this level and to be doing what we are doing, when I’m done playing I’ll be able to look back and say ‘wow, that was nice that I did that’.”

“We are in this now, so I can’t look at it like that.”

“One day.”

Panthers host Louisville Tuesday night at 7p just a half game out of first place in the ACC. Panthers pregame begins at 6:30 with Bill Hillgrove, Curtis Aiken and Cale Berger on 93.7 The Fan.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports