MONTPELIER — Jessi Bumb gets amped up easily.
Whether that’s making a good pass that leads to a basket, scoring a bucket or a teammate getting a steal and going coast-to-coast for a score, the 5-foot-6 senior on the Montpelier girls basketball team just likes to get pumped up.
“I just like getting excited,” Bumb said. “The whole team, we all get excited for each other. It’s genuine. No one’s jealous of another person. Everyone is excited to see everybody score. I like to go in and make a basket — and it makes me so excited.”
And when your team is off to a hot start, it makes it that much easier. The Locomotives are 6-1 (2-0 Buckeye Border Conference) through Monday and are sitting atop the BBC. Montpelier is also coming off a 14-11 (8-4) season where it won a share of the BBC title and won a Division III sectional championship, but fell 59-44 to Elmwood in a district semifinal.
Bumb is part of the reason why. She’s averaging around 12 points per game this season. Which isn’t totally a surprise. Bumb has earned all-BBC honorable mention in her three previous seasons. She’s also been putting countless hours in the gym with her dad — and second-year Montpelier girls hoops coach — Mike Bumb.
“Whenever I get the chance, I just go to the gym with my dad like on the weekends,” Jessi Bumb said. “If we don’t have practice on a day. I mean, probably later today I’ll just go with my dad and just shoot because I like to do it, and I just know it will pay off — and it has this year, especially.”
Not only has Jessi seen it, but Mike has as well.
“I think Jessi is a tremendously high-character person. She’s worked herself into a good basketball player by spending countless hours,” Mike Bumb said. “She’s not the most athletic kid, but she has put in so much time in the offseason, and I was glad to see it kind of — so far this year — to have paid off for her.”
Mike Bumb said Jessi has become more assertive this season offensively than in previous seasons, which he thought Montpelier needed her to do this season.
“I like her overall game, I like how she sees the floor,” Mike Bumb said. “I think she’s a smart basketball player. And this year she’s scoring more for us, so that’s a great thing.”
Both said Jessi also gets more excitement on making a good pass and getting assists than scoring.
That’s exactly how Jessi wants it to be — especially with how good Montpelier has been offensively. The Locos are averaging 55 points per game.
“If I’m seeing someone who’s shooting well, I’ll try to feed it to them as much as I can,” Jessi Bumb said. “If I know I’m not shooting well, I know there’s going to be like three other girls on tonight. I can just count on them, so I can just drive in and kick out and stuff like that I’m not open.”
And she wouldn’t have gotten to his point if it wasn’t for watching her older sister, Hanna, play basketball with her friends and being around Mike — who was also Hilltop’s football coach from 1998-2011 and went 80-52, a Montpelier 1992 graduate who has the highest-scoring season in program history (25.3 ppg in 1990-91) and at the time of his graduation, left as the school’s all-time leader in points (1,225) and assists (355).
“It’s been really great,” Jessi Bumb said. “I wasn’t expecting him to be my coach again. I grew up with him (as my coach) until I was in sixth grade. We always went to the gym whenever I had a chance — weekends, after practices, whatever. He’d come with me. So he was still like my coach.
“I’d hear him on the sidelines during my first two years. And then finally he was my coach again, and I was really excited. I was a little nervous on how everyone was going to take it, but everyone was great with it. They all knew how he is. He’s not going to play favorites on me.”
That feeling is mutual with Mike, who said he didn’t plan on eventually being Jessi’s high school basketball coach at all.
“Honestly, I feel like I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” Mike Bumb said. “... I’ve enjoyed it much more than I ever thought I would since I’ve taken it. It’s been a blast.”
Mike Bumb added: “I treat her the same and don’t go overboard to try to prove to everybody that I’m not showing any favoritism, but also treat her to the same standards. So that’s always something that I’m really conscious of, and I do my best on that.”
Jessi is also a two-year letterwinner in volleyball and earned all-BBC honorable mention this season and plays softball. She’s also in the National Honor Society and in student council, which she saw Hanna do and wanted to follow suit.
“I just kind of do whatever my sister did at this point,” Jessi Bumb said.
Jessi plans to study a specified area in business in college, but right now she’s also focusing on making sure she does her part to make sure the Locos can make a deep postseason run — and make their mark on the program.
“I’m just in the moment,” Jessi Bumb said. “Basketball is my favorite (sport), and I’m just going to play. We don’t know if it’s going to get taken away like next week if we get quarantined (because of COVID-19) — who knows. So we’re just playing.”