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Meet Tari Cummings

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Meet Tari Cummings

The University of Arkansas Athletics Department is recognizing current Razorback administrators and coaches as part of a series celebrating Black History Month on ArkansasRazorbacks.com.|Throughout the month of February, individuals will be featured on the web site for their contributions to the University of Arkansas, the Razorback program and society. This marks the fifth year Razorback Athletics has celebrated Black History Month with a special features series on ArkansasRazorbacks.com.This year’s list includes Razorback administrators Eric A. Wood, Bryon Hatch, Marcus Sedberry and Marvin Caston along with coaches Melvin Watkins (men’s basketball), Tari Cummings (women’s basketball), Chris Johnson (women’s track and field) and Randy Shannon (football).Talk to any Arkansas student-athlete, and they can tell you how much their coaches do for them on a daily basis. When it comes to the women’s basketball team, that is certainly true of assistant coach Tari Cummings. A dedicated coach, Cummings works with X’s and O’s, but as a teacher and a role model. Before getting into coaching, Cummings had a very successful playing career. She started her career at UA-Fort Smith, which was then Westark College. After earning All-American honors there in 1999, and was recently inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame for her contributions. She went on to play two seasons at Oklahoma State, and was named an All-Big 12 performer in 2001-02 after averaging 13.1 points per game and leading the team with 6.9 rebounds per contest. After her playing career, she did not initially jump into coaching. However, the profession quickly found her. "Coach Whorton, the head coach at Westark then, always told me I would be one of his next assistant coaches," Cummings said. "And I always said probably not, because I wanted to get into business. When I graduated from Oklahoma State I moved back home and took a job at USA Truck. Coach called me one day to have lunch. I was thinking we were going to just catch up, but he told me that he had a position open, and he thought I should try it out for one year. Well I ended up staying at the Junior College ranks for about four years."After coaching at that level, Cummings had the opportunity to become a Division 1-A head coach. She quickly adapted to the level and helped her teams to success. "My first Division 1-A job was at Cincinnati," Cummings explained. I was there for a couple of years, and then I went to the University of Houston. I had successful seasons there, and in my second year we went to the NCAAs. Coach Collen knew my head coach there at the time, Todd Buchanan, and I had met Coach Collen when I was working at Fort Smith. And I got a call one day that Coach Collen wanted to talk to me, and he told me he had a position open."When Coach Collen called, Cummings pounced on the opportunity to come back to Arkansas and become a Razorback. She has truly enjoyed working at Arkansas and the family atmosphere that the staff works hard to create. "It was an opportunity to get back closer to my family, in the SEC and at Arkansas," Cummings said. "I grew up in Pocola, Okla. and played in Fort Smith, so I’ve always been a Razorback, even if I played at Oklahoma State. It was a great opportunity for me. Being here is wonderful. My daughter loves it. We are only 45 minutes to an hour from my family. To be able to have them come up anytime, for any games, and I can go home quick, has been wonderful."Even as a new member of the Arkansas coaching staff, Cummings felt immediately comfortable. The women’s basketball staff is a tight-knit group, and she embraced the family atmosphere of the team."They are a great staff," Cummings said. "Coach Collen, I had a good vibe about it when we were discussing me working here. It just felt natural. He didn’t come off like he was trying to sell me something, he was real, and he’s been that way since. He’s family oriented, which is great because we all have kids and he’s very understanding, especially me being a single mother. We all just have a great time with each other. It’s like we’re a family."As an assistant, Cummings is the team’s recruiting coordinator and academic liaison. On the court, so coaches the team’s post players, as has the opportunity to mentor both some storied seniors and talented up-and-comers. "The seniors, they are a pretty talented group," Cummings said. "I’m just trying to keep them on the right track, and then helping the underclassmen find their niche in their game. I just try and get them to understand that your opportunity is going to come, just stay prepared, stay focused, and keep working hard. They’ve done a great job with that teaching."While helping players develop on the court is a big part of her job, Cummings is very concerned with the personal growth of the student athlete. Cummings uses her position and the wealth of available resources at the University of Arkansas to impact the team in a positive way both on and off the court."I try to be a positive role model for them," Cummings explained. "You have kids from all walks of life. I am just consistently keeping their minds focused on the positives of life and getting their education, and making sure that’s a priority. Basketball will end at some point, so you have to have something concrete to fall back on. The University of Arkansas and the Fayetteville community is all about their student athletes. They want you to be successful in every way, not only on playing field but also in the classroom. We have great instructors and support staff that are always there making sure that these kids are in the best situation to be successful."



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