Rosen: What Can You Expect From Cade Cunningham In Stillwater?

Oklahoma State fans can finally take a deep breath. At Montverde Academy, five-star Cade Cunningham made his commitment to the Cowboys official by signing the dotted line. You could certainly say it was a roller coaster recruitment for all fan bases involved. When Mike Boyton hired Cade’s brother, Cannen Cunningham, as an assistant coach, many assumed it was a done deal. Cade repeatedly said he would take all of his official visits, but some still assumed he was going through the motions. Then, all of that changed after a weekend trip to Lexington, Kentucky. After the visit concluded, recruiting expert Evan Daniels logged a crystal ball pick predicting Cunningham to commit to the Wildcats. Oklahoma State fans were stunned, and BBN was ecstatic. Last week, Cunningham committed out of nowhere. No decision date, no ceremony, no ESPN appearance, just a twitter video. The video starts out with the beat to Drake and Future’s “Scholarships” playing in the background, which only furthered the battle between Stillwater and Lexington. In the song, Drake famously recites “I rock Kentucky blue on these h***.” Current Kentucky guard, Tyrese Maxey, used the exact same beat in his commitment video before pledging to Coach Cal. Kentucky fans with a good ear for rap music probably thought this was a good sign, but all that was squashed when Cunningham says “I was this close to picking another school, but blood is always thicker than water” before unzipping his jacket to reveal an Oklahoma State shirt. Cunningham’s pledge is the biggest commitment in the school’s history, but what can you expect when he actually suits up for the Cowboys?

In the past few years, we’ve seen multiple elite prospects pass on blue bloods and go somewhere where they can have the keys. I’m a fan of this route, as I constantly advocate for players to go where they fit, not where they think would get them verified on Instagram. However, each player is situational, and for some the blue blood fit is the best. In Cunningham’s case, he would fit anywhere, but I ultimately think he made the best basketball decision by choosing the Cowboys. He is Coach Boyton’s prized jewel, they will build the team around his strengths, and cater to his weaknesses (which is a very short list). At Kentucky, Cunningham would’ve had a better shot at a national championship, but the Wildcats class already features BJ Boston and Terrence Clarke, who are both ball dominant scorers. I think Cunningham is already the favorite to be the 2021 number one pick, and he’ll only solidify his case by running the show at Oklahoma State.

Trae Young had a historical season for Oklahoma, but they fell to Rhode Island in the first game of the NCAA Tournament. Ben Simmons was incredible at LSU, but his Tigers didn’t even qualify for March Madness. As great as Young and Simmons were, their level of play declined throughout the season (it’s worth noting Ben Simmons basically checked out). Based on history, teams led by one spectacular freshman don’t typically win in March, but I think Cunningham could be the exception. His play style affects winning, he won’t be there to pad stats and his good statistical games usually translate into W’s. Listed at 6’6” 215, Cunningham has the build of an NBA wing, which makes it even more impressive that he’ll be the best point guard in college basketball next year. Over the past year, Cunningham has fully transitioned into a primary initiator, and the results have been off the charts. He dominated the EYBL with 25 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and 2.5 stocks per game. He was the best player on the court everytime he laced them up. While his Texas Titans fell in the quarterfinals of Peach Jam, they were the best team throughout the entire regular season. Even he’ll tell you, outside shooting isn’t a big strength, but that doesn’t mean he can’t score. Cunningham has incredible touch around the rim and knows how to use his frame to create the space he needs. He basically finishes everything at the basket, which also creates a ton of gravity. Unlike some elite ball dominant prospects, Cade knows how to leverage that gravity. He is one of the best passers in the entire country, his combination of size and vision is unique and virtually unstoppable. For what it’s worth, I’m confident he’ll eventually shoot it, based on his work ethic, touch and self-awareness. Here is a thread from The Stepien’s Ross Homan, he thoroughly explains why we should be optimistic on Cade’s outside shooting:

Yes, people will constantly be talking about Cade as the future number one pick (as they should be) but he will win games as a Cowboy. This won’t be a typical seven month stay. Cade Cunningham will eventually change an NBA franchise, but first, he’s going to bring a ton of excitement to Stillwater. 

Jake Rosen

Twitter: @JakeInThePaint

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