Several years ago, when Carlos and Eva Sumilong were shopping, they would commonly hear a ball bouncing behind them and didn’t need to turn and identify the dribbler.
Young daughter, Janelle.
Or they would be sitting in the family room of their north Hanford home and note a recreational-type activity and a small ball being fired at a play basket attached to the bathroom wall.
And, for years, they’ve noticed the dribbling, shooting, rebounding and incessant energy in solo form of a player attacking the basket in their driveway.
First, one backboard.
“I’m not sure how she broke the first one,” Dad said, “but she’s played a lot.”
She’s always had the motivation and challenged herself. She’s self-driven. We just follow.
Eva Sumilong on daughter Janelle
Adds Mom: “We had to say, ‘Janelle, come inside, slow down,’ because it was always go, go, go. She’s always had the motivation and challenged herself. She’s self-driven; we just follow.”
This helps explain how Janelle Sumilong has become the career-leading scorer in the history of one of the Central Section’s most storied girls basketball programs at Hanford High.
2,240 School career-leading points for Janelle Sumilong at Hanford
This helps explain how the four-year varsity player, with 2,240 points, has ascended above not only the Bullpups’ greats – the late Shawntinece Polk (2,163), Amy Parrish (1,971), Jenny Thigpin (1,845), Bayli McClard (1,795) and Madison Parrish (1,630), to say nothing of one of their best ever, UNLV’s Brooke Johnson – but a lineup of college talents and some of the finest players the section has seen.
While Sumilong played as a freshman with Johnson for one season and has played with another sure college player, junior Kate McClard, for three, she has not had the luxury of a deep supporting casts common at Hanford for nearly 20 years as the Bullpups captured a state title (D-II, 2001), eight section championships, delivered a Parade All-American in Polk (2001) and Bee Players of the Year in Polk, Parrish (twice), Bayli McClard (twice) and Johnson.
And that also helps explain Sumilong’s point total – 11th all-time in the section, according to historian Bob Barnett – because, since Johnson left, she has had to do the heavy lifting unlike the hierarchy preceding her.
I saw this (success) coming for Janelle because all the stars were aligned for her.
Hanford coach Doug Pitkin
“It was the right time for Janelle and the right time for me,” says Bullpups four-year coach Doug Pitkin, “because after Brooke and that senior class left someone had to carry the load, and Janelle has the perfect personality and temperament to shoulder the weight of that kind of burden. As a sophomore, she had to score 35 points a game and that’s never been necessary at Hanford before.
“I saw this (success) coming for Janelle because all the stars were aligned for her. She’s a great girl who came to the right place at the right time. To be able to play her freshman year with Brooke made a huge difference because she was able to see and play alongside a tenacious competitor who just refused to lose.”
Pitkin, an English teacher, admires another side of Sumilong, who carries a weighted grade-point average of 4.06: “People see her as a basketball player, but to me that’s secondary. As much as I love her on the floor, I like her more in my classroom. She’s an extraordinarily intelligent girl and with a big heart. She’s very kind to other people.”
Sumilong, who has signed with Nevada, could be down to her 119th and final prep game for the sixth-seeded and 21-8 Bullpups – a Divison-I quarterfinal at No. 3 Clovis North (17-10) Thursday night. This will unfold 2 1/2 months after the Broncos of the Tri-River Athletic Conference defeated Hanford 81-72 in double overtime as part of the Nike Central Valley Showdown at Clovis West.
Pitkin removed Sumilong from her final home game with 2 minutes, 27 seconds remaining Tuesday night in what would be a 78-50 first-round win over Liberty-Bakersfield and a game scouted by three Clovis North representatives, including coach Heather Long.
A modest crowd didn’t appear to recognize the magnitude of Sumilong’s exit, hence a smattering of applause following her 18-point, nine-assist, seven-steal, three-rebound performance. That stat line was nothing unusual for a 5-foot-7 point guard averaging 21.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 4.3 steals. A right-hander equally skilled with her left hand, she’ll likely play off guard in college.
This is a gymnasium on the northwest corner of Kensington and Grangeville where capacity crowds routinely followed Hanford in the past.
That allegiance has cooled, despite the Bullpups’ 12th consecutive season of at least 20 wins and West Yosemite League titles.
But Sumilong, nonetheless, applauds the support: “I think I’ll remember the fans the most; they’re really supportive here.”
She’ll certainly remember the program’s history, particularly in the Parrish era – Madison and her father/coach, Tom – because she was there, unconditionally.
“I watched all of the games,” Sumilong says. “I would always come a little early and see the varsity hang out. I was like, ‘Man, I want to do that.’ ”
Oh, how she did.
“Never even crossed my mind,” she says. “I just came here and wanted to play for this school. I never really thought about scoring.”