Thursday, January 30, 2014
Fox Creek junior guard Marques Sumner scored a career-high 34 points on Tuesday.
He turned 17 the same day. On top of that, he was returning from a one-game suspension for a minor disciplinary matter to face region foe Williston-Elko, a game the Predators won 92-41.
Yet, for Sumner, the star performance – which included a field goal percentage of 72 percent – was just another tribute to Paul Walker, the actor who died in a Nov. 30 car accident.
“I dedicate every basket to him actually,” said Sumner, who made it clear that he never sought extra attention for the decision. “It’s just something I came up with.”
Sumner has had plenty of baskets to dedicate to Walker this season. The Predators (13-4, 6-0 Region 4-A) began their season two days after Walker’s death, and in 16 games, Sumner’s averaging a team-best 20.4 points per outing. He’s scored in double digits in every game he’s played, and including Tuesday’s victory. Sumner’s scored at least 20 points nine times and cracked 30 points twice.
“It’s one of his favorite actors, so he wanted to dedicate every bucket to that memory,” Sumner’s father, Omar Ali, said.
Walker, who appeared in dozens of movies, was most famous for his role as Brian O’Conner in the “The Fast and the Furious” franchise, the plot of which centers around street racing. That role also made his death in a fiery crash after an appearance at a charity event for his Reach Out Worldwide organization “just crazy,” in Sumner’s estimation.
“Actually, that was one of my favorite series,” Sumner said. “And I look up to him because not only was he in movies, but he tried to help.”
Walker began Reach Out Worldwide after a trip to Haiti in 2010 to help with relief following an earthquake, according to the organization’s website. During that trip, he noticed needs that were not always met with the proper resources, and began the process of launching Reach Out Worldwide to alleviate that problem.
The event he was leaving the day of the crash, in which driver Roger Rodas was also killed, was to benefit victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.
Knowing all this, Walker’s death had more impact on Sumner than would usually be expected considering the two had never met. For the Predators’ top scoring threat, the rest of his baskets, at least for this season, will be in memory of a man that inspired him with his humanitarian efforts, also commemorated with a sign held by his parents.
“Actually, when he died, I told my mom that it was like losing a family member,” Sumner said.
He’ll get his next chance to honor that connection on Friday, when Fox Creek – ranked No. 4 in Class A in the latest coaches poll – hosts Wagener-Salley at Sweetwater Baptist Church in North Augusta.
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University. Follow him on Twitter @ASJTimm.