Winning basketball titles runs in Lincoln Park freshman Brandin Cummings’ family

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Friday, March 19, 2021 | 3:30 AM


Comparisons to older brother Nelly are harder to shake than any lockdown defender, and Lincoln Park freshman Brandin Cummings just added another item in common.

“Different personality. Different length. Different kind of player,” coach Mike Bariski said. “But here’s the similarity: Both were really good as freshmen.”

And both won WPIAL titles.

The younger brother scored a team-high 22 points in the WPIAL finals Monday night, a 66-57 victory over North Catholic in the Class 4A championship at North Allegheny. A year ago he was frustrating middle school defenses with step-back jumpers, but now he’s beating the best in the WPIAL.

It runs in the family.

Go back seven years, and then-freshman Nelly Cummings was Lincoln Park’s starting point guard on another WPIAL championship team. Of course, Nelly also celebrated a state title his freshman year, Bariski quickly adds, a milestone Brandin will be chasing in the coming days.

Lincoln Park (18-5) enters the PIAA tournament Friday by hosting District 9 champion Clearfield (20-5) in a state quarterfinal at 6:30 p.m. If the Leopards win two games, they’ll reach the finals March 25-27 at Giant Center in Hershey.

“We’ll see if he can follow the legacy,” Bariski said.

Friday promises to be a big day for both Cummings brothers.

Nelly Cummings is now a junior at Colgate, which won the Patriot League title and drew a No. 14 seed in the NCAA Tournament. His Raiders open the tournament Friday afternoon against Arkansas. He scored 10 points in the Patriot League championship game Sunday, and Brandin won the WPIAL title a day later.

“I talked to my brother before the (WPIAL championship) game,” Brandin Cummings said. “He told me he did it and now it’s my turn. I didn’t want to let him down.”

The two live in Midland, not far from Lincoln Park’s gym.

“Of course, it’s competitive between me and my brother, but it’s all love,” said Brandin, who goes by the nickname Beebah. “We love each other and we just want to see each other succeed.”

Among the brothers’ differences is their size. Brandin Cummings already lists at 6-foot-3, which is five inches taller than his brother was as a high school freshman.

Their roles on the court are also different. Nelly largely organized the offense as a ninth grader surrounded by Division I college recruits. He became a leading-scorer later in his career and finished with 2,411 points, fifth-most in WPIAL history.

As a freshman, Brandin seems to already have that scorer’s touch. He’s emerged late in the season as an offensive threat for Lincoln Park, reaching double-digits in eight of the past 10 games.

Yet, Bariski chose to keep him out of the starting lineup until reaching the playoffs.

“Every one of my assistants was saying, ‘You’ve got to start Beebah, you’ve got to start Beebah,’” Bariski said. “And I’m waiting and I’m waiting and I’m waiting.

“I didn’t start him for a long time and that was purposeful to get him hungry,” Bariski added. “It didn’t make a lot of people happy but I waited until I needed to. He was hungry. You could see he was hungry.”

Cummings scored 18, 15, 17, 14, 13 and 14 points in Lincoln Park’s final six regular-season games while coming off the bench. In his first career start, he scored a team-high 18 points in Lincoln Park’s quarterfinal win over Deer Lakes.

“I always knew I was a great talent on the team,” Cummings said. “I just had to prove it during the season and I did. The coach recognized that and put me in the starting lineup. I finally got my chance to shine.”

In the WPIAL finals, he shined brightest as Lincoln Park won its fifth WPIAL title.

His older brother reached the WPIAL finals three times in four seasons, but Nelly’s freshman title was his only WPIAL championship. Lincoln Park topped Monessen, 85-41, at Duquesne’s Palumbo Center in 2014, and young Brandin was there to watch.

“I was just so excited,” he said. “I also remember when they lost. I was bawling. I was crying my eyes out. But when they won, I was super excited.”

Winning one for himself, he said, was an even better feeling.

“He’s going to be something special,” Bariski said, “and I’ll tell you why. Nelly probably beat him up at home and made him tough.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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