MIDLAND - Renell Cummings has been automatic.
An eighth grader at Midland, Cummings recently completed a feat that even professional basketball players have yet to accomplish.
On Dec. 12, Midland picked up a 56-51 victory at Aliquippa. In the game, Cummings led all scorers with 49 points, an amazing total. Yet, how he got to 49 points is the truly amazing part.
Cummings shot 25 free throws in the contest and connected on all 25.
Last spring, the Dallas Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki sank 24-of-24 from the charity stripe to set a new NBA record.
"That game was honestly one of the most impressive performances I've seen at any level by one individual player," Midland coach Kevin Patterson said. "I don't know if anyone realized at the time how incredible it is to shoot 25-of-25 from the line, and score another 24 points on top of that. And what really makes it special is that Renell isn't one of those players who is a foot taller than everyone else in eighth grade. He's a point guard, he's 5-foot-1. He earned every point he got."
Just to show it was no fluke, Cummings scored 37 points in Midland's next game including 9-of-9 free throws.
According to Patterson, Cummings' effort at Aliquippa was even more impressive considering the environment in which it took place.
"The atmosphere in the gym at Aliquippa was almost hostile," Patterson said. "It started out calm, but as the game progressed and came down to the wire, the crowd noise continued to grow. The gym was packed. Every time he got to the free throw line, the fans got louder than the last time by shouting, yelling, and pounding on the bleachers. He just continued to knock down shot after shot, unaffected by the crowd and atmosphere.
"At the time, I knew he made a bunch in a row, but I had no idea it was upwards of 25. After the first dozen though, our bench sort of expected every shot to drop in. I'm not sure if Renell realized how many he had made in a row. He was more focused on winning the game, rather than how many points he had scored. Sometimes he gets into this zone, where he takes games over and no one can stop him. He had that look in his eye like he was going to win the game and no one could stop him from doing so."
Patterson said that his team doesn't practice free throws very often. He ventured to guess that Cummings shot more free throws against Aliquippa than he had at every practice combined this year.
"His form is very consistent. He has the same routine and same motion from the line every time, and he shoots with confidence," Patterson said. "At that age, confidence plays a big role in foul shooting."
Pressure is something Cummings obviously handles well.
The Midland basketball team, which is currently 4-2 on the season, has turned to Cummings on several other occasions in late-game situations. Cummings has won two games for Midland this year against Riverside by hitting a game-winning shot in the final two seconds.