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'Brothers' Reddic and Cummings making history as co-captains/champions

 

Last updated 12/6/2022 at 11:59am

Thomas Leturgey

Tone Reddic, Sr. (L) and Gilmore Cummings

One can tell right away that Steel City Yellow Jackets Co-Captains Tone Reddic, Sr. and Gilmore Cummings simply enjoy each other's company. When you talk with them, they laugh, pay attention to each other's thoughts, and have a knack to simply get out of each other's way when necessary.

They met while attending Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. Reddic had gone to the school to study Sports Management and play receiver and safety for the Division II football team but played a lot of pickup basketball games on campus. A Business Management student, Cummings was on the Fighting Scot's basketball team and was one of the guys who tried to woo Reddic onto the squad.

They immediately became friends. When they discovered they shared a September 28 birthday (Reddic is three years older), the fellow Libras felt they were instant brothers.

Reddic left to play basketball at Beaver County Community College, but the duo remained close friends. Years later, when the idea of playing for the then-budding Steel City Yellow Jackets of a growing American Basketball Association (ABA) came to be, it was Cummings who contacted his friend.

"I was working with my mother at the time when Gil called," Reddic said recently from his home. "There was an opportunity in Pittsburgh. We have been with it ever since."

The teammates fondly remember when the Yellow Jackets nearly won the championship in their first year. They realized they were working on something to build upon in Pittsburgh with team owner Ace Pippens at the helm. Since then, "We look for nothing short of the Final 4 or Elite 8," said Reddic.

During the team's third season, Pippens installed Reddic and Cummings as the team's co-captains. It's a title they cherish and take very seriously.

In April, the Yellow Jackets won their first ABA championship. Reddic, a 6'3" forward, had to play inside the paint against seven-footers from other teams and he was banged up quite a bit. He contemplated riding off into the retirement sunset, but decided he'd be doing a disservice to his teammates, so he came back this season.

Once back home, the Yellow Jackets were given a championship parade in downtown Pittsburgh, the first hosted by new Mayor Ed Gainey.

"You gotta slow down," joked Cummings, a 6'2" guard, from his recently-purchased Pittsburgh home, about Reddic's intense style.

Both veterans had a hard time in the Final 8 with three games in three days. That's a lot of running, jumping and shooting with the high-scoring ABA. They defeated Team Trouble 123-118 in the finals–by ABA standards–a defensive struggle.

"I couldn't move," noted Cummings about the rigors of the Final 8 tournament. "Tone kept me focused.

Even after the championship win, they knew that their time in professional basketball was not finished.

"We need to get one more before I ride out," said Reddic.

"We'll go back-to-back," adds Cummings.

But the return has not been without obstacles. Reddic returned to the team last weekend for the important away-and-home double shot with Cleveland's then number 10 ranked Burning River Buckets (the Jackets swept the series) and Cummings hopes to be ready for December 10 against the York Buccaneers at home.

Even without the captains for most of the season, the Yellow Jackets remain #1 in the ABA Power Rankings with a 5-0 record.

The now 22-year-old ABA is a different game than when they started. Traditionalists by experience, playing with liberal goaltending rules and 3D shots that provide extra opportunities from turnovers baffled the guys. "I thought what the [expletive]," laughs Cummings. But they accumulated to an ever-evolving game. They say it's slower now. They agree there aren't many 200-point games on the scoreboard like in the days of infancy.

"It's slower and more manageable," said Reddic.

After playing together professionally for nine years, Cummings and Reddic can't think of another current club they've played with a comparable duo of veterans. Rival Baltimore did in years past, but that team has been revamped since owner Greg Brown sold his stake in the organization earlier this year. Brown, who successfully hosted the Final 8 in the spring, was promoted to become president of the ABA.

Binghamton also has a team that's made with a group of veterans at its core and built to grow, but none match up to the Steel City co-captains.

Reddic and Gilmore play with-and-against each other in tournaments and summer leagues, so they share a rare dynamic.

"There's chemistry," says Cummings. "[The other teams see] numbers 1 (Reddic) and 2 (Cummings)." They know what each other is going to do and where they will be. They drop each other clues during the game and capitalize. Reddic says he will pull up from charging down the lane when he knows Cummings is open for a three-point shot. A cool-as-ice sniper, Cummings usually connects. "It's a brotherhood," they say of their relationship on-and-off the court.

Cummings notes Reddic is the godfather to his newborn son Levi. They get together often, and when the guard needed work done on his home, he called upon former teammate Jason Arrington, and forward Reddic.

It's a unique team chemistry. Cummings and Reddic speak glowingly about "little brother," Claude Scott, Jr., a 6'6" forward nicknamed "Snoop" who has yet to play this season due to injury.

"Snoop will go hard for us," says Cummings. "We love Snoop to death."

"We took him under our wing," said Reddic. "He came in and stuck with us."

"We used to whoop his a$$," laughs Cummings.

Now, "Snoop" is a veteran in his own right. Recently, he has guided twins Tim and James Jackson, and helped new center Artis Cleveland with little nuances of the ABA. "I helped him with his foot work," said Scott after the Yellow Jackets' most recent victory.

Cummings and Reddic agree the Jackson twins would "run through a wall for you." Reddic said the young players "let us be captains" and listen to their advice.

The duo appreciates the addition of 7-foot-tall Artis Cleveland, who Reddic says should really provide benefits once playoff time hits. "Other playoff teams have seven-footers." They agree that the pure center has immediately fit in with the team that all say has a family-first atmosphere. One that's assembled by Pippens.

"We love Ace," said Cummings. "He stuck in there for 8-9 years."

Reddic says he is thankful for the opportunity to play professional basketball in Pittsburgh, thanks to Pippens.

They know the schedule, which is only about a third completed, will have its pitfalls. Visiting the Hawks in Baltimore is always difficult. Former Hawks owner Brown had noted the Hawks hadn't won in Pittsburgh and the Yellow Jackets weren't victorious in Baltimore. The Yellow Jackets travel to Baltimore on December 17.

Cummings and Reddic are gunning for a perfect season. The team had struggled against the Ohio Bruins, and that was enough to get Reddic back on the hardcourt. Cummings, who was injured in the first game of the season and has been rehabbing a lower leg, expects to be back on December 10 at A Giving Heart in Allentown.

Add a returning "Snoop" Scott and the team would be at full-strength. The guys are excited about the prospect of sharing the court with Scott, Cleveland, the Jacksons, and Brandon Burnett, a 6'9" forward/center who is a strong rebounder.

In the absence of co-captains, guards Amaru Caldwell and Brandon Johnson have picked up their games, as have Cam Wiley and VaShawn Howard.

And that doesn't even mention guard Kenny Holmes. Both captains enthusiastically call Holmes a "special" player. Not every team has a strong bench player who can routinely post 40 points.

"It's a guard and forward league," says Reddic.

Holmes is scheduled to fulfill a contractual obligation in Newfoundland, Canada in another basketball league, beginning next month. Proving their assertion the Yellow Jackets are a good, "family", both captains agree while they would miss Holmes, they are eager to see him excel, wherever that may be.

"We can't replace him," said Reddic. "But we want him to do well."

While Reddic isn't sure about his future as a player, he knows he wants to spend time with his sons. Cummings would entertain playing for as long as he can.

But until then, the captains are simply happy to share the court, play competitive games and help grow professional basketball in Pittsburgh.

"We love to represent Pittsburgh," said Reddic. And they hope to ride another convertible in a championship parade.

 

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