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Cade Cunningham on Why He Chose to Stick with Oklahoma State after Sanctions

Cade said everyone reached back out to him when the sanctions dropped.

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When Mike Boynton learned of the Cowboys’ recent NCAA sanctions, he wanted to be where his players found out from, so he started calling.

The first player Boynton said he called was Cade Cunningham, the No. 1 recruit in the 2020 class. Cunningham met with the local media for the first time Wednesday via teleconference where he explained what those days were like between the announcement of the sanctions and when he announced his continued commitment to Oklahoma State.

“The craziest thing about the call was the way he approached it to me,” Cunningham said. “I don’t think there’s any other coach, I mean, I might be wrong, I can’t say, nobody else has been in that situation, but there’s not a lot of coaches that I could think of that would tell a recruit, ‘Do what you want to do. I’m going to help you if you want to leave.’ You’re not gonna hear that from anybody else.

“That meant a whole lot to me because I knew that he really cared about me as a person instead of just the player that I am. It was definitely a crazy day. My phone was blowing up and everything, but hearing that from him meant a whole lot to me.”

Cunningham said after the sanctions dropped “everybody” reached back out to make “one last jab at it.” The G League, professional ball overseas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Florida and Washington were all at one point under Cunningham’s considerations.

He said emotions were rampant after the initial announcement, but about a day after that, he knew he still wanted to be a Cowboy.

“At first, emotions were high, but I didn’t really have a destination in my mind,” Cunningham said. “After maybe a day, I knew who I wanted to play for. I figured Coach Boynton was such a great basketball mind. Our whole staff is full of good basketball minds. I feel like that’s the biggest thing that will help me as a player is surrounding myself with people that really know the game. I feel like there’s still so much I can still accomplish, and all of my goals are still intact in staying at Oklahoma State.”

It was a matter of comfort for Cunningham in more ways that one. His relationship with Boynton started Cunningham’s freshman year at Bowie High School in Arlington. Boynton was Cunningham’s first scholarship offer, and Boynton did so as an assistant before at first consulting then OSU head man Brad Underwood.

Cunningham was made comfortable with all the familiar faces he has on his team. Four of his teammates are from the DFW area. He played AAU ball with Rondel Walker and Montreal Pena.

And yes, the comfort extends to Boynton’s staff where Cunningham’s elder brother, Cannen, is an assistant coach. Cade called Cannen one of his best friends and his “biggest life coach” apart from his parents. Cade called Cannen being at OSU a cherry on top of the foundation of the program and coach that initially won him over.

“I think the biggest thing about [Boynton] is he’s more about loyalty and the people that are around him,” Cunningham said. “The people that are good to him, he’s good to. Overall, he’s just a super genuine dude. He’s had a lot of adversity since he’s been a head coach at Oklahoma State, but he never feels bad about himself, he never makes excuses, he just keeps going. Having that as the leader of the program, I feel like that’s somebody I can learn from a whole lot. Down the road, I feel like that’s somebody I can have a great relationship with 20 years down the line.”

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