Mighty Mites

Juneau's diminuitive pair of guards drives the Crimson Bears to victory

Posted: Sunday, January 13, 2002

Here's a preview of the new show that will be playing several times this season during Juneau-Douglas High school boys basketball games.

Julius Cumlat takes the inbounds pass, dribbles the court hollering instructions to his teammates who race ahead to get position. He dribbles twice between his legs, once left-to-right, the next right-to-left as he eludes the opposing guard's steal attempt and takes his spot near the top of the arc.

Again, Cumlat shouts another command and the offense rotates, leaving teammate Curtis Lane wide open on the right side. Cumlat senses the defensive void surrounding Lane and hits him quick and square. Lane puts up his shot as the crowd holds its collective breath in anticipation of yet another 3-pointer from the Crimson Bears' most deadly marksman.

It's called "Mighty Mites" -- the Crimson Bear's Cumlat-Lane show.

Cumlat and Lane, the starting backcourt for the 2001-02 Crimson Bears squad, have already shown sneak previews of their show at the Princess Capital City Classic on Dec. 27-29. Both Juneau seniors were named to the all-tournament team as the Bears won their ninth straight Classic title by sweeping East Anchorage, San Pedro, Calif., and Mills, Calif.

Cumlat led the team with five assists per game and Lane led the team in scoring with 13 points a game. And both had sensational moments that highlighted the each player's talent.

In Juneau's second game, Cumlat embarrassed San Padro's' starting point guard Joe Guastella by stealing the ball at midcourt and scoring an uncontested lay-up. Cumlat came right back and did the same thing just 15 seconds later. This time, Guastella didn't even bother trying to follow Cumlat to the basket and immediately got benched for much of the rest of the game.

Lane's greatest moment came at a crucial time in Juneau's third game against Mills. With the Bears trailing 24-16 midway through the second quarter, Lane unleashed an unprecedented fury of 3-pointers -- four straight in a 1-minute, 30-second stretch.

 

All this coming from the two smallest players on the Crimson Bears' varsity roster. Lane's the tall one at 5-foot-7 and Cumlat, or "Junior" as he's called by most, is 5-6.

Both players come from basketball roots. Lane's father is Frank Lane, who is a long-time area basketball player and one of the top players in the Gold Medal tournament year after year. Cumlat said he grew up with basketball around the house because his father, Julius, and brother, Joe, played all the time.

Cumlat and Lane are two of the fastest players on Juneau's roster, each able to close distances quickly on the court. They also say their quickness will make up for any lack of height.

"I probably got the quickness over the 6-2 guys," Lane said.

Beyond these similarities, there are also polarized differences that set the two apart from each other.

Cumlat is the more outgoing one, which adds to his strength of leading the Bears vocally on the court.

"Junior's our most vocal player," Crimson Bears head coach George Houston said. "He's a little more outgoing."

"Nobody has ever called Junior quiet," teammate Joe Ayers said.

Lane, on the other hand is more soft-spoken and reserved, often quite content to let his friend Cumlat answer questions for him.

"Curtis is quiet, but he is opening up more," Houston said. "In his freshman year you couldn't pull a word out of him."

Both players also differ in their styles of play.

Lane's shooting is closing in on legendary status in the JDHS gymnasium, where he excels in 3-point shooting. He made 11 field goals in the Princess Capital City Classic and 10 of those baskets were treys.

"I'm just a shooter," Lane said. "I'm a 3-point shooter, I guess. I think I shot 25 already this year -- that's a lot."

"Curtis has been All-Southeast and All-League for the past two years and is known as a shooter," Houston said. "Teams know that and are going to try to it away."

Cumlat is a defensive specialist and has already more than doubled his assists from 2.3 a game last year to 5.0 this year.

"I take pride in trying to stop somebody," Cumlat said.

"Junior has the role of distributor," Houston said. "On offense, his ability to push the court allows us to set the table for everyone else. This year in particular, Junior's stepped up his role in leadership."

The differences between Cumlat and Lane compliment each other well on the court. Cumlat excels in areas where Lane does not and vice versa.

But the thing that most likely makes the duo successful is friendship. And the friendship goes beyond Cumlat and Lane to the other members of the team to make a close-knit group that pushes each other to get better.

"It's easier to play with somebody you get along with," Cumlat said. "Everyone gets along and everyone hangs out together."

"The camaraderie on this team has a lot to do with the seniors," assistant coach Robert Casperson said. "They know they don't have to do everything themselves. They include the younger players."

"If you have good chemistry off the court, you'll have good chemistry on the court," Lane said.

The next showing of Mighty Mites will be at 8 p.m. this Friday and Saturday night at the JDHS gym, when the Crimson Bears open Region V-Class 4A play against the Ketchikan Kings.

Jeff Kasper can be reached at jkasper@juneauempire.com.



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