Pat Cummings

A scholastic career that saw him dazzle the local region as a member of the Greater Johnstown Trojans later allowed the 6-foot-9 Pat Cummings to play at the University of Cincinnati and with five NBA clubs.

What helped Cummings reach those heights on local and national stages was a work ethic built on the playgrounds of Johnstown.

Cummings' determination, even in the face of not finding immediate basketball success during his junior-high years, was fondly recalled by his varsity coach at Greater Johnstown.

“When I think of Pat, I think of how hard he worked,” former Trojans basketball coach Paul Litwalk told The Tribune-Democrat in a 2012 story following Cummings’ death in New York.

“When Pat first came into the high school scene as a sophomore, he was really interested in basketball and worked real hard. We had a weight room at that time and he was in the weight room quite often. He spent an awful lot of time on the Coopersdale playground, and anytime we went to a camp, Pat was really willing to learn.”

The area, and the state, soon learned about Cummings’ abilities on the hardwood.

“I guess I really decided to work at it when I was in the 10th grade,” Cummings recalled in a story published in the Jan. 14, 1979 edition of The Tribune-Democrat. “I used to play baseball at night, but I quit to play summer league basketball. I liked it, and I was fortunate enough to grow up with guys my age or a year older who really worked hard.”

During his junior season, he helped the Trojans to a 25-1 record. Cummings’ senior season saw him score 608 points and earn first-team all-state recognition in a campaign that ended with a 20-5 mark. That season was highlighted with a 50-point effort against Windber and Cummings' selection to the Dapper Dan Roundball Classic in Pittsburgh.

At the University of Cincinnati, Cummings scored 1,762 points and had 851 rebounds from 1974-79. He was a two-time first-team selection in the Metro Conference and was the league’s player of the year in 1978-79, the winter after he was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks as a junior-eligible player.

He joined the Bucks in 1979, beginning a 12-year career in the NBA that saw him log time with Milwaukee, Dallas, New York, Miami and Utah. He closed his professional career with two seasons in the CBA, spilt among the Rapid City Thrillers, Fort Wayne Fury and Wichita Falls Texans.

Cummings showed spurts of brilliance while with the Bucks, but saw his game take off during the 1982-83 season with the Mavericks, where he posted then-career highs in scoring and rebounding.

After two seasons in Dallas, Cummings joined the Knicks and recorded his best NBA season in 1984-85, averaging 15.8 points and 8.2 rebounds a game. He twice posted his single-game scoring high of 34 points while with the Knicks, once during the 1984-85 season against the Phoenix Suns and against the Washington Bullets the following season.

He signed as a free agent with the expansion Miami Heat, starting in the team’s first game – a 111-91 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Nov. 5, 1988, when Cummings netted nine points and grabbed nine rebounds in 24 minutes. He scored a team-high 15 points in the franchise’s first win – also against the Clippers – on Dec. 14, 1988, helping Miami stop an 0-17 skid to open its first season.

His time with the Heat spanned nearly two seasons. His NBA career closed with four games as a member of the Jazz.

Cummings passed away June 26, 2012 in a Greenwich Village apartment in New York. He was 55.

Shawn Curtis is the sports editor for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5085. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnCurtis430.​

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