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Boynton, Players Weigh in on Cannen Cunningham’s Early Impact on Program

Cunningham earning praise from players and his head coach early in his tenure.

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STILLWATER — Cannen Cunningham is a few weeks into his first official practices as an assistant coach.

Mike Boynton hired a 26-year-old Cunningham to much controversy. Cunningham’s younger brother, Cade, is the No. 2 recruit in the 2020 class and has long been linked with Oklahoma State. Some called Cannen’s experience into question when he was hired. He spent last season on Tulane’s staff as the associate director of video operations. He has also coached on the AAU and middle school levels.

Despite all that’s been said from the outside, the inside of the OSU program seems high on what Cunningham has brought to OSU thus far.

“Coach Cunningham’s been great,” Yor Anei said. “He’s been working with the bigs mostly, so I’ve been working with him most of the time. He’s really been pushing me to do what I can do and dunk a lot more than I used to.”

Dunking and power with the ball have definitely been prioritized since Cunningham’s arrival. Cunningham has the bigs do dropstep dunks with 5-pound balls in practice. They also do a drill where they jump and tip a ball off the backboard four times before dunking it on the fifth jump.

“Coach Cunningham is really good,” Kalib Boone said. “He’s been helping the bigs with their explosiveness. We do medicine ball dunks, we do lobs, we do backboard tips, we do a lot of stuff. He’s a really great coach, and he knows how it is to be a big and be a post player. I didn’t know he could still dunk. He showed me he could dunk one day, and it surprised me. I thought he had bad knees.”

Cunningham isn’t too far removed from his playing days. He played in 134 games while at SMU. After that he played in Poland with Energa Czarni Slupsk for a season professionally.

He finished his college career with 131 blocks, the sixth-most in SMU’s history. That should mesh well with Anei, who swatted 85 shots in his freshman season. Anei already ranks 13th on OSU’s career blocks list after just one season.

With his age, and him being 6-foot-10, Cunningham is able to work with OSU’s post players hands on.

“It’s fun because you don’t always get to dunk on your coach,” Anei said. “He’s down there pushing us and jumping with us when we try to dunk. I always try to dunk on him.”

John Cooper worked with the Cowboys’ post players last season. With Cunningham’s hiring, Cooper was moved to the title special assistant to the head coach, a similar position that Sean Sutton holds at Texas Tech.

Anei said Cunningham’s style of coaching is a little more “new school” than Cooper’s “old school” approach, but generally the two are teaching the same thing.

“He’s been really good,” Boynton said. “He’s kind of got a reserved personality, but he is really, really bright. He understands the game. He’s got a great feel for A, what big guys need in terms of development. But also, he’s still young enough he can get out there and show them some things.”

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