GAC senior Brianna Cummings, a George Washington commit, has grown into one of the Spartans standouts in her four varsity seasons. (Staff Photo: Ben Beitzel)
NORCROSS — In her first season, Brianna Cummings got a taste of near success.
Her Greater Atlanta Christian girls basketball team reached the state championship game, falling to Buford, but setting high expectations for the freshman. In the next two seasons, she’s never returned.
“Every year we’ve fallen a little bit short, and it’s always by the littlest things,” Cummings said. “We just have to keep everyone focused. It’s really weird because I went my freshman year, instead of like junior year or something so it’s been a little while.”
In that first season, Cummings was just a piece for the Spartans, but over her next two seasons she grew into GAC’s leading threat and team leader.
“Bri is the total package,” GAC coach Cal Boyd said. “She is a coach’s dream; when your best player is also your hardest-working player. We have a young team, young freshmen and sophomores, and Bri is probably more patient with them then I am at times.”
Turning from a defensive focus, Cummings grew into the team’s top offensive threat. Last season, Cummings led the Spartans with 18.5 points per game over the season and also grabbed nine rebounds a game, a tribute to her versatility.
“I think I’ve always just been good at defense, just hustling, getting rebounds, being aggressive,” Cummings said. “Since sophomore year, they’ve been relying on me more to score.
“I definitely enjoy defense, but I like to score now.”
Beyond Cummings’ growth offensively, what she and Boyd call her largest improvement is in the non-quantifiable leadership ability. An upbeat personality with a bright smile, Cummings admits she does not do much shouting, but realized entering her final season she needed to speak up more.
“In the past years, I think I’ve been more of an action leader. This year I’ve stepped into a vocal leader,” Cumming said, noting her involvement in GAC’s leadership classes. “Every player is different so you have to approach them differently. You just have to be in their head to get the most out of them. We are trying to get the most out of them. We are really young.”
Even with the youth, the Spartans began the season a scalding 12-3, losing to Class A runner-up Southwest Atlanta Christian, Class AAAA defending champion Columbia and the Class AAAAAA school Langston Hughes, which lost to Norcross last season in the state semifinals. While there are many contributors during that stretch, especially with Cummings limited by injury, the impact she makes remains.
“She’s not as vocal of a leader, she is not going to get in your face and say something to try to get you going, she is just going to lead by example,” Boyd said. “She might say one or two things to you in the locker room, quietly. I think Bri, maybe, leads from the middle and not so much from the front. She leads from the trenches, she’s in it. She’s in the locker room, if she feels that something is not right she will be involved and try to make it right. She is not out front, rah-rahing, she’s in the middle.”
A gymnast before she grew too tall, Cummings plays with the balance learned from those early floor routines. She plays every position from the point guard, down to the wing, but prefers the wing because it allows her to play with more freedom. A 4.3 GPA student with a basketball scholarship to George Washington, Boyd trusts Cummings’ head as much as her speed and shooting.
“It makes my job a lot easier and it’s one of the reasons why I have a pretty expansive playbook, because I have players like that that can handle it,” Boyd said. “If I didn’t have that, I wouldn’t go to the extreme of putting these things in. Over the course of the season, by the end, we have a nice playbook and it helps tremendously having a player like Bri who has a high basketball IQ.”
From her first year to now, Boyd has watched Cummings grow just like his playbook; more robust, more nuanced, more talented.
“These past four years have been really good,” Cummings said “It’s just been a journey. I love the team now. It’s been fun. It’s been a good four years, I would say.”
“For us, she means everything to our program,” Boyd said.