Photo courtesy of Dave’s Joint.
By David Cordova
roughout this past season, Montverde Academy was the premier team in the nation and was pretty much unstoppable wherever they went. This season, they had a torrid run, as they went 25-0 on the season and finished at No. 1 in the ESPN rankings.
One of the reasons for that was the effortless play of Cade Cunningham. The 6-foot-7 point guard has been one of the most talked about prospects throughout the last year and has made it a point to make noise for himself. It is because of his hard work that he is considered the best point guard in the country by many publications, including Rivals and ESPN. At the present time, he is rated as the No. 2 ranked recruit in the Class of 2020.
Cunningham’s skills will lead one day to the pros, but it is safe to say that the kid from the Southwest has already shown his promise and will continue to work towards being the best.
When asked what motivates him to be successful in the game of the basketball. “I think it’s just my love for the game, it’s something I love to do, so why not try to be the best I can be at it?”
A native of Arlington, Texas, which is a suburb of Dallas, Cunningham has come up in a good culture of basketball in a state that is mostly popular for football. “You know, I think Dallas hoops, I think we have a really big-time basketball system going on, and I feel like we have a lot of big-time players coming up,” he said.
However, basketball wasn’t his first love when he was younger. “Football was my first love when I was younger,” said Cunningham, “My dad [Keith Cunningham] was a big-time football player [at Texas Tech], and you know, coming up, I played both sports. My brother [Cannen Cunningham] ended up giving up football and started playing basketball. After awhile, basketball just became my love, and it just brought a feeling to me that I didn’t have anywhere else.”
On his strengths and weaknesses in his overall game, he replied, “My strengths, I’m a really, I’m a big-time teammate, I feel like I’m geared toward with playing for my teammates and getting them shots and keeping them happy. I feel I can get my own shot when I need to, I feel like I’m a very versatile player, and you can’t find that in most places. And my weakness is I’m working on my jump shot a lot, my ball handling, keeping it tight as it can be, and making sure that my decision-making is on point.”
Cunningham first started out high school at Bowie High School in Arlington, and made a splash there, averaging 15.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and three assists per game as a freshman and helped his team reach the District 6A Region I final and won District 4-6A Newcomer of the Year. As a sophomore, he doubled up his performance by averaging 18.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game and won the District 4-6A Most Valuable Player and earned TABC All-Region honors.
On his time at Bowie, he replied, “I loved my time at Arlington Bowie, I lived right across the street, like that was like family for me. You know, growing up, I always looked forward to being at Bowie, Coach [Allen] Gratts was my coach, and we had a really good relationship, and all of my best friends I played with, so it was a really good time.”
As a junior, he decided to step his game up by going to the nationally-ranked Montverde. On why he made his move to Montverde, Cunningham replied, “You know, Montverde, is a super-prestigious program, Coach [Kevin] Boyle is a legendary coach, he’s coached all of the big-time players. He has an approach to the game that you can’t find anywhere else, and seeing that, you know, watching them on TV, that was something I wanted to be a part of.”
As a junior, Cunningham was a part of a loaded Eagles squad that went 22-3 and finished No. 4 in the USA Today national poll, while averaging 11.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. When asked about his first season at Montverde, he replied, “My junior year, we came up a little bit short at the very end, but I learned a lot, it was my first time playing, [as a] full-time point guard with a bunch of big-time players around me. Our team was really good, I think our chemistry could’ve been a little better, but I think it was a learning experience, it kind of helped me for this year, where we have a ton of talent, and we’re looking for a title run.”
The last couple of summers, he played for the Texas Titans, a Dallas-based organization that plays on the Nike EYBL circuit. Last summer was a major one for Cunningham, as he averaged 25.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game and won the Most Valuable Player award for his play on the circuit.
When asked about playing for the Titans, he replied, “You know, Texas Titans, that’s family for sure, so since fourth grade, I’ve been playing for them. This year, we added Greg Brown III, who was a big-time addition for us. I still feel we were the best team in AAU, we came up a little short in the [Peach Jam], but you know, I had a great time with the Titans, and that’s always going to be family.”
Throughout his high school journey, Cunningham was recruited by many of the blue-blood programs throughout the nation, including Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina and many others. But on November 5th, he decided to commit to Oklahoma State, where his brother Cannen, is currently an assistant coach.
When asked about his commitment to Oklahoma State and having his older brother there to guide him, he replied, “A lot of different factors went into me signing with OK State, but Coach [Michael] Boynton was a big-time piece in my recruitment, he was the first coach to ever recruit me, and he stayed consistent throughout, and I didn’t get that from any other coaches. You know, there was a ton of things [that led to the decision], I live close, it was the closest school that was in my top-five [list of schools]. Having my brother there, that helps a lot, that’s my best friend, and he’s probably my biggest influence in basketball and in life, so having him there, he’s somebody that I can trust, along with Coach Boynton and I’ll have a good time there.”
As for what can be expected from him in the Big 12 Conference next season, he replied, “You know, I’m going to continue to bring my alpha dog mentality, I’m going to try to lead my team to be the best that it can be. I’m going to try to make Oklahoma State the best team in the country, and I’m going to give it my all every night, and I don’t want to give the Oklahoma State fans anything short of what they’re paying for [in tickets], I want to give them a show every time I step into the Gallagher-Iba Arena, you know, be the best Oklahoma State Cowboy I can be.”
Based on his great play, Cunningham was named the Naismith Prep Player of the Year and the Max Preps National Player of the Year after averaging 13.9 points, 6.4 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game and leading Montverde to an undefeated record of 25-0. He was also selected to play in three of the most prestigious all-star events, such as the Nike Hoop Summit, the Jordan Brand Classic, and last, but not least, the McDonald’s All-American Game.
But unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he was not able to participate in either of those three events. However, he now has the Big 12 and Oklahoma State to look forward to. And then, if everything goes well for him as a freshman, a chance at being a first-round pick in the NBA Draft thirteen months from now.
No matter where he goes, Cade Cunningham will be a great, valuable asset to his team.