It would have been so easy to leave. When the NCAA infractions committee ruled last June that the state of Oklahoma would not be eligible for postseason competition in men’s basketball, the possibility of Cade Cunningham playing a full regular season in the midst of a pandemic and then not let you at least enjoy a modified ride. Madness – it was extremely real.
Money could be earned elsewhere and it was not required to absorb punishment for the transgressions of others.
Cunningham stayed. It was the hardest choice, but it was where I wanted to be. “Loyalty,” he explained in a video posted on Twitter. “He’s supporting the people you started with. It’s showing up, even when times are tough. “
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Times are good now. Your loyalty has been rewarded. Sporting News has chosen Cunningham as their freshman of the year, joining previous winners like Zion Williamson of Duke in 2019 and Jared Sullinger of Ohio State in 2011. He has also been named one of our five All-America First Team Picks. . On Monday, Cunningham became the fourth freshman chosen as the Big 12 Conference player of the year.
And here we are, five days from Selection Sunday; And, while it’s not yet officially official that Cunningham and the Cowboys can play in the 2021 NCAA Tournament, the pending appeal status of that postseason ban means they are eligible. For now. It would be absurdly cruel for any segment of the NCAA power structure to eliminate Oklahoma so close to the start of March Madness, so there is optimism that we will get to the bracket reveal Sunday night and see the Cowboys. 18-7 mentioned prominently. .
And then we can all look forward to seeing Cunningham when the biggest college basketball games of this season are played, for as long as he can help OK State last before leaving for the June NBA Draft.
Freshmen are not a universally popular entity in college basketball, which is strange, because they have added so much to our experience over the past 15 seasons.
Would the sport have been better this season without Cunningham’s 40-point masterpiece on the road in Oklahoma in late February? Would it have been better without his return two days later to lead the Cowboys to a Bedlam Series sweep with a completely different episode of brilliance, this one with just 15 points but also seven rebounds and four assists?
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Despite all the Twitter smear against the elite freshman in recent years, 2021 became the twelfth season since the NBA Draft age limit was introduced in 2007 to feature at least one player from first year on the Sporting News All-America first team. This time, it was Cunningham, who was joined by Luka Garza from Iowa, Jared Butler from Baylor, Corey Kispert from Gonzaga and Illinois guard Ayo Dosunmu.
Cunningham belongs to a club that started with Kevin Durant of Texas in 2006-07 and most recently featured Zion Williamson of Duke in 2018-19. Cunningham didn’t deliver a season on par with any of his own, but he was better than all but four of the roughly 4,100 Division I basketball players this season.
Cunningham is averaging 19.7 points and 6.3 rebounds. As a point guard, he doesn’t bring the unparalleled vision to the position that oversized playmakers like Penny Hardaway and Magic Johnson had. But he has a boldness in his passing that can destroy rival defenses. And he can be a better pure shooter than either of the two on the same stage (Cunningham is shooting 42.5 percent from 3-point range). He uses his size and length to interrupt as a defender.
I don’t know how many guys who are considered the number one pick would bet on the ball in the first half of a game in February, “Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton said. Tulsa World (Oklahoma) February 17. “Without questioning the motives of other children, but there is a risk involved there. What it does is set aside some of that risk. He is willing to help this program. “
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.