FARMINGTON — Several years ago, University of Maine at Farmington men’s basketball coach Dick Meader received a packet from a high school basketball player in North Carolina. In those days, most of the packets Meader received were sent to him by mistake — the players were really trying to express their interest in the University of Maine at Orono.

Meader never even opened the packet until a week later, when Steve Smith, the head coach at Oak Hill Academy, sent him a letter telling him about a player from North Carolina named Pet Sumner. Meader thought he recognized the name — he doesn’t come across too many people named Pet — and he dug out Sumner’s packet.

Sumner was good enough to be offered a chance to walk on at Division I Mississippi, so Meader had associate head coach Sam Boynton serve as UMF’s key recruiter with Sumner. Boynton and Sumner hit if off, and Sumner is now early in his senior season with the Beavers. Sumner is UMF’s only returning starter this season, and is closing in on 1,000 points for his career.

“He is a very good shooter, with range and the ability to make the tough shot at the end of the clock,” Meader said. “He’s put us into overtime in the final against Husson last year. Three years ago, his sophomore year against Castleton, he put us into overtime with a last-second jump shot. So he’s not afraid to take a shot, and makes a lot of them. Offensively, he’s a very good player.”

The first thing you notice with Sumner is his first name, Pet. It looks like a typo, as if the school’s sports information department forgot the “e” at the end of Pete. But Sumner says virtually everyone has called him Pet since he was born.

“My dad gave it to me as a nickname at birth and it stuck with me my whole life,” Sumner said. “I’ve never been called Michael. My dad’s grandfather, it was his nickname given to him by his sisters. My dad always thought it was a real name. He didn’t think it was a nickname. So he gave it to me and it stuck. Nobody’s called me Michael, except one eighth-grade teacher who refused to call me Pet.”

It’s also an oddity that Sumner ended up going to college in Maine. He hails from a small town in North Carolina called Cramerton, a suburb of Charlotte. His father is still involved with basketball.

“On the side, he started something called ACC Barnstorming, where he pays the seniors from Carolina, Duke, Wake (Forest), N.C. State, after the season’s over to come play against charities, high schools, all-star teams, stuff like that,” Pet said. “I’ve played in that multiple times. It’s really a lot of fun. It’s coming to Maine this year, actually. It’s coming to the Portland Expo.”

The elder Sumner handled his son’s recruiting, and Pet had a number of schools interested in him.

“I sent my recruiting stuff to almost all the schools on the East Coast (where) I knew I could play,” Pet said. “I got heavily recruited by Virginia-Wesleyan, and a school in Arkansas called Ouachita Baptist — they’re Division II. I had a walk-on spot at Ole Miss and a JV spot at Carolina.

“I toured all the schools. Coach Sam Boynton called me and said, ‘Just try it out.’ I was like, ‘No. I’m not going to Maine.’ I tried out every other school, and something didn’t seem right. So my dad said, ‘Let’s go to Maine.’ I got up here and just fell in love with it. Coach said, ‘You can play right away.’ I was like, ‘OK. Sign me up.'”

Sumner is a 5-foot-11 shooting guard, with the emphasis on shooting. He averaged 11.3 points per game and made 64 3-pointers last season, although Meader would like him to increase his total of 38 free throw attempts.

“We need him to make shots, because we have a tough time scoring points right now,” Meader said. “We need him to get to the basket more, which he’s very capable of doing. He’s starting to gain more confidence with that aspect of the game.”

Another of Sumner’s adjustments was the winter weather. Boynton grew up in Windsor and graduated from UMF, so he guessed Sumner might be frozen into fear of leaving his room.

“I remember my first class in the wintertime, it was like negative-5 out,” Sumner said. “Coach Boynton sent me a text message saying, ‘Make sure you’re in class today.’ I woke up and I was like, ‘No way! It’s way too cold.’ I put on like six layers, and I’m headed to class, though. I’ve gotten used to it now.”

Sumner missed what would have been his junior season when he broke his middle finger. He said it made his faith stronger, and faith is something he makes no apologies for.

“It’s probably my number one thing in my life,” Sumner said. “Some people call me Tim Tebow-esque. It doesn’t bother me, though. I enjoy it. I actually met Tim Tebow when I was training at IMG Academy in Florida.”

On the court, Sumner can also get emotional. He gives the impression he and Meader have talked about that a few times.

“I wear my emotions on my sleeve,” Sumner said. “Sometimes Coach doesn’t like that very much, but it’s how I play. I play with a lot of emotion and fire.”

“One of the great things about Pet, is No. 1, he enjoys the game,” Meader said. “He loves the game. He works very hard to be a better shooter all the time. He works well in the classroom, does a great job there, and is never a problem off the court. He’s really a quality person.”

In the past, Sumner thought about playing overseas when his college career was done. As graduation approaches, he has different plans.

“I think my time in basketball — I love it, but playing is almost done,” he said. “My dad keeps saying, ‘Just try it.’ But I’d rather coach. I have my own basketball camp I started at home. I love giving back to kids and teaching kids.”

This being his last season of basketball, Sumner wants to savor it. It’s an approach a few years wiser than the kid who sent Meader that packet.

“When I came here, all I wanted was (to be) a 1,000-point scorer, to break records, and play a lot, and be a star,” Sumner said. “Once I got injured, my whole perspective of basketball changed. I realized that you gotta live in the moment, and enjoy every second of it.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.