Wildcat fans may recall Villanova’s 2004-05 season in which they made a return back to the NCAA after five years of sitting at home watching it from their couches.
Some may remember the performances of Randy Foye, Allan Ray, Kyle Lowry and Will Sheridan, whom were key contributors to the team’s success that year.
The cast concluded that outstanding season with a one-point loss to North Carolina, the eventual 2005 NCAA champs, in the Sweet 16.
A questionable call was made during the closing seconds of the game, as the referee whistled Ray for traveling on a play that looked like an ordinary hop-step. The controversial ruling proved to be the deciding factor in the game, but others will voice that the absence of forward Curtis Sumpter may have been a better explanation for their hapless defeat.
The reason for his inability to play in that game was due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee suffered during the team’s second-round win over Florida.
“One can only speculate,” Sumpter commented when asked if his on-court presence would have changed the outcome of the game.
Averaging 15.3 points to go along with 7.2 rebounds, Sumpter was one of the Wildcats’ centerpieces that season as he concluded the campaign being named as a member of the second-team All-Big East and first-team All-Big 5. Missing such an impact player and coming up just a layup shy of advancing to the next round, one can’t help but think “What if.”
“It was a tough feeling to see what happened,” Sumpter said. “I just remember that summer before the season started we knew that it would be our year and that we had a chance to win a national championship. The loss was unfortunate but we never used it as an excuse.”
The severity of that original knee injury would increase during the offseason, forcing Sumpter to sit out for the entire 2005-06 season.
For Sumpter, the hiccup would be the start to several afflictions that the former Villanova star had to endure during his post-collegiate career.
Similar or related chronic injuries became key reasons as to why the one time versatile forward called Sunday’s The-BALL Showcase his last game playing professionally.
“I’m pretty confident that this was my last game,” Sumpter said in a playful manner after salvaging just a basket in the contest. “I haven’t played since February and just going up and down these last few days, I know I’m done. My body just can’t take it anymore.”
Coming to terms with the reality of his ongoing knee complications, Sumpter is more than at comfortable with his fate, for the Brooklyn native embraces his new role as a part of Nova Nation.
“I’m just trying to mentor the guys and be somewhat of a bridge from the players to the coach,” he said. “Playing under Coach (Jay) Wright for five years (one redshirt year), I know exactly what he wants in getting players to know what playing Villanova basketball is all about and how much it means to the guys before them.”
The Wildcats this past season faced similar growing pains to that of what Sumpter and company had to overcome before his group was able to end the program’s five-year NCAA tournament drought. But he feels that the program’s present personnel requires different areas of improvement than that of the team that fell just a bucket short of pulling off the upset against the largely favored UNC.
“These are two different teams,” he said talking about the comparison between the past and current clubs.
“Coach Wright does a great job of fitting the style of play to the players on the team. For our team, it was an uphill battle going from a couple of NIT finishes and then make it to the tournament (NCAA). We were a very confident team heading into that season (2004-05). We had our goals set high and we felt that we could be the best team in the nation. These guys have some work to do but I’m expecting a lot of good things from them in the next couple years.”
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