MOUNT CARMEL, Ill. -- Selfless. A word that defines someone who puts the needs of others over himself. A man that exemplifies that is Wabash Valley College assistant men's basketball coach Shea Sumpter.
Hailing from the Chicago area, Sumpter attended Rich East High School, at which he had a great career as a four-year starter, scoring over 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and was a four-time All-Conference selection, All-Area and McDonalds McLegends selection. In Sumpter's senior season his Rich East team was ranked top five in the state of Illinois. They went on to win the SICA South Conference and the Regional Championship in his senior season.
Sumpter made a decision very early on as to the way his life was going to be. When you speak with him it becomes clear how humble he is and his dedication to his goal, helping others.
"My grandmother, my mother, my uncles, my coaches, all of those guys kind of taught me how to be humble," coach Sumpter said. "Try to be thankful and let your actions talk, not just your work and stuff. Just coming from Chicago, born and raised, coming from that lifestyle, there's one of two choices, good or the bad. I just wanted more for myself, more for my family. I feel my family deserves it, so I try my best to go down the right path to help others. If I didn't do that, I don't think I'd be here."
Following the completion of his high school career, Sumpter continued his pursuit of a better life, leading him to Danville Area Community College where he would be coached by then Danville coach, Mike Carpenter.
Sumpter would play at Danville for two seasons, his most illustrious season coming in his sophomore season. He made the M-WAC All-Conference team, was the M-WAC Player of the Year, First team All-Region and an NJCAA All-Tournament team selection. They made the NJCAA National Tournament in his final season, placing No. 8 in the nation.
"Give all credit to them, without them I wouldn't have all the accolades I received in college or high school," coach Sumpter said. "I feel like I was accomplished, but I could have done better. I am thankful for the career that I had. It's all due to [my old coaches]. . . . I will give them all the credit and my teammates from Danville Area, Rich West, Missouri-St. Louis, without them I wouldn't achieve half of the things I have accomplished."
He then finished his career at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He also spent a season as an assistant coach there while he finished up his Bachelor's Degree in Liberal Studies with his minors in Sociology and Gender Studies.
Prior to becoming a coach, Sumpter continued his mission of helping others, this time in starting his own organization to help athletes and students gain scholarship opportunities for college. His organization is called We Help Lives Save Lives.
"I took initiative to go back to my community and help kids gain scholarship opportunities," coach Sumpter said. "I didn't care if you went Division I, Division II, NAIA, Division III, I was just trying to help kids better themselves. I was lucky enough to help 30 kids find opportunities for themselves. Whether it was DIII, NAIA, DII. Some of the kids now, not even on the path for basketball. Just help them find a school and be a mentor to them, be a big brother to them."
He also served as an AAU coach briefly in the Chicago area, starting his coaching career, which brought him to Mt. Carmel two years ago. Despite moving away from his community, he still frequently travels to visit and help kids.
"You have to give back, show your face to these kids because you're somewhat of an inspiration and can motivate them to be something," coach Sumpter said. "I make sure to come back home for everyone to see me and uplift them."
Sumpter cited his relationship with coach Carpenter and the historical success and tradition of Wabash Valley College athletics as the reason for his arrival in 2016.
"I was like, I want to be a part of that," coach Sumpter said. "I want to be the best I can be and I had to take the proper steps to do that. I felt like Wabash Valley was that place due to the history. On top of that, knowing coach Carpenter, being a good guy that's going to give me freedom to be myself and show my creativity as far as a coach and a man. I feel like he will let me be the coach I want to be and the person I want to be. So when you have a good boss like that, it makes it easier for your job. It makes you enjoy the game and enjoy your job."
Since his arrival in 2016, Sumpter feels that the community has truly embraced him. Though it's vastly different than his home of Chicago, he truly enjoys the quiet nature of the community in contrast to Chicago.
"It's a wonderful community," coach Sumpter said. "They care about you, it's family oriented, they're nice, polite. In Chicago, it's fast, a lot of stuff going on. Here, it's nice, it's subtle. You feel safe, you feel comfortable. I'm very thankful to be in this community, thankful to be around all the people I've met and everyone I've introduced myself to. I feel everyone's genuine and I appreciate the positivity in the air.
Having been under coach Carpenter's tutelage for five years now, he's managed to learn a few things from his former coach -- continue to learn no matter how old you are, be open minded, be willing to network, don't be labeled as any one thing as a coach, expand your horizons and expertise. Currently residing as an assistant coach, he feels his goal is to just support his players and fellow coaches in whatever way he possibly can.
"I'm big on unity, brotherhood, we need to each other in order to become successful," coach Sumpter said. "I feel like a lot of people lose that concept or get that misconstrued. We have to do it together, I'm here to help these guys, I'm here to help the players, I'm here to help my community, I'm here to help everybody in any way. That's my primary goal in life in general."
As for a goal for the rest of his career? Sumpter would like to continue his ways of helping others, whether it's coaching or not.
"I have a goal to coach for the rest of my life. I want to help as many kids as possible. I want to help over 100 kids graduate from college, gain scholarships, play basketball, help them become the next CEO, the next NBA player, the next engineer, the next music artist, whatever it takes to help them gain a better opportunity in life and give back to their families or help the next man. That's my primary career goal, just to coach as many years as I can because I feel like the more I coach, the more lives I can affect and help. I think that would be my ultimate goal."
Whether he continues at Wabash Valey College for many years to come, or if it's somewhere else, it's clear Sumpter will be continuing one thing -- being selfless.