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Everything Cade Cunningham Said ahead of OSU’s First Official Practice

Cade dishes on Luka, his teammates and what is “special” about his relationship with Mike Boynton..

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[Photo via Courtney Bay/OSU Athletics]

The Cade Cunningham era of Cowboy basketball is underway.

Cunningham met with reporters via Zoom ahead of Oklahoma State’s first official practice of the 2020-21 season Wednesday. Here is everything the project No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft touched on.

On OSU’s first official practice being live streamed

“I think it’s definitely going to be fun for us, getting to show what we’ve been doing and everything. But it’s practice at the end of the day. I’m not gonna change the way I practice, and I’m not gonna let other guys change the way they practice. I feel like we should just stick to what we’re doing and continue to work what we’ve been working on.”

On sharing the point with Isaac Likekele

“It’s been good. It’s been smooth. I think the best thing about it is we both really want to win, so we know whenever one person has the hot hand, they need the ball. When the other person has the hot hand, they need the ball. We don’t really fight over it too much. Whoever has it at the moment, usually keeps it, and we just gotta play off each other. We play off each other really well.”

On him and Likekele also having the ability to play in the post

“It’s something that we’ve been working on a whole lot. We’ve both been working with the big guys as well as with the guards. Just working on our post game, making sure we’re comfortable down there. I think it’s going to be really big for us to be able to exploit mismatches with smaller guards and stuff. I’m excited. I know Coach Boynton has a lot of stuff ready for us.”

On if he has been to Eskimo Joes yet

“It’s crazy. I promise you, last night, it was like 8 o’clock, I was like, ‘Hey Rondel [Walker], you trying to go to Eskimo Joes?’ And then we looked and it said ‘closing soon.’ … We were about to go last night. I need to get out there, I need to.”

On being with his brother, OSU assistant Coach Cannen Cunningham, every day

“I think it’s been huge for me. We watch film all the time. Even in practices, if I do something wrong or if he sees something, being able to go the side and be able to talk to him, it’s been big for me because I know that’s somebody that thinks like me and has a way better knowledge of the game than me. Somebody that can relate words to me and translate them to me well. Just having him here has been a really big help.

“I think he’s helped, really, the whole team. It’s not just been me. He’s been helping a lot of guys on the side and helping them out. Just having him here has been a big help, for sure.”

On Mike Boynton

“I definitely did a lot of research coming in to Oklahoma State. I didn’t go anywhere blind, but he’s definitely been everything that I expected and even more. I’m happy with who I chose for sure.”

On the NCAA sanctions

“Honestly, I never think about it until I get asked about it. It’s never in my thought process. Basketball is something that I’ve always done and has always been a passion for me. When I go out there, everybody is just working out like we’re playing for a national championship. We never think about it. We still feel like we’re competing for a national championship, even if we aren’t, whatever. We’re just having fun and competing, really.”

On what has stood out most about the team so far

“We compete. I think having guys that’s gonna compete, nobody gives anybody favors. There’s no friends when we get out there. I think that’s the best thing about it, but we have a lot of guys that have grown up together. We’ve known each other for forever. Our grittiness and our passion, I think that’s what’s gonna set us apart.”

On the possibility of COVID-related cancellations during the basketball season

“I really don’t think about it at all. I don’t know who we’ll play, I don’t know when. Anything can happen. I know I have practice today. I know I have have practice tomorrow. I just kinda look at practices like that’s what I got. That’s the only thing that’s on my schedule. That’s the only thing I’m really worried about right now.”

On being a leader despite being young

“I came in with a lot of hype. Being able to come in and work just as hard, I don’t want anybody to feel like they have to cater to me or anything. I think me coming in and not asking for any extra or complaining about all the work everybody’s doing or whatever, I think that’s been a big thing for the team to see because they know that I’m in it with them. Just coming in, I think I have a pretty good basketball IQ, so I share it whenever I can. I think naturally I’m a decent leader. I’m not gonna say I’m just the best leader ever, but I think I’m alright. So, I just try to bring that to the team.”

On Boynton making it hard on freshmen

“I didn’t know he said that, but I can tell you he’s not lying with that. Just from me, Rondel, MA [Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe], he doesn’t pick on us, but he’s making sure that we’re not slacking at all. With what he’s been doing with us, I think it’s helped us out a whole lot. The expectations are high for our freshman class, and we’re trying to live up to it. Coming in and being able to produce right away is really important for us. The way he’s been pushing us and everything, I think it’s only helped us.”

On what it’s been like being a freshman on campus

“It’s different now with everything going on with corona. You’re not really out in public as much as, probably, in previous years, but I just tried to keep my head down and keep working, really. I’ve just been trying to stay in the gym and at the crib as much as possible.”

On learning from Ferron Flavors

“He’s been around. Experience, my mom and dad used to always tell me, old people, I’m not gonna say old, elderly people, those are the people you want to listen to because they’ve been there. With Flav, he’s not no old guy or nothing, but he’s been in college basketball, and experience is huge in this game. Just him being through a whole bunch of situations and a lot of adversity in his time, having that on the team, I think that’s only gonna benefit us because he can help guys throughout adversity. And he’s done that. He’s been very vocal to everybody. He’s been a big-time leader for us.”

On if he is vocal or quiet in practice

“Oh, you’re gonna hear me, for sure. You’re gonna hear me. I’m not gonna be walking up into Coach’s mic, trying to talk into his mic or anything, but you’re gonna hear me for sure.”

On being an “old soul”

“I don’t really focus on the future too much just because there’s so many stories of guys that have done that, and it hasn’t worked out for them. I feel like the only thing I can control is right now, so that’s what I’m gonna control. I can’t control yesterday or tomorrow.”

On how big an influence Boynton is on him outside of basketball

“It’s been so easy because we see him outside of the basketball court. He’s available to us. You don’t get that everywhere. You do not get that everywhere. I can go to Coach Boynton’s house 24/7. I can call him at any time. I can text him at any time. I have texted him and called him at wild times, so it’s not like I’m just saying it assuming that it’s possible for me. I know I can.

“Being able to have that as your head coach, you can’t really ask for anything more. He brings his kids around all the time. They’re like our little best friends, having them around. His wife is always around. Just having that, it really brings a family atmosphere to us, and I can’t be more appreciative of that.”

On his favorite thing about Stillwater so far

“I like a lot of things about Stillwater, actually. I think the biggest thing is how chill it is. It’s not just a crazy, wild city where it’s just a bunch of things going on. I can kinda chill and be laid back in Stillwater. That’s probably my favorite part about it.”

The story of the day he committed to Oklahoma State

“It was a while ago. I do remember it was a tough decision for me for sure, but at the end of the day, I kinda had deep in my heart OK State was where I wanted to be. I wanted to make sure of everything. I had to check all the boxes off. I think Kentucky was about to play Michigan State, it was that big showcase that was going on.

“I don’t really know if I’ve spoke on the whole day before, but I remember I called my brother, and I was like, ‘Hey bro, I think OK State’s the spot.’

“He was just like, ‘Let’s do it.’

“I was telling him like, ‘Nah, I’m talking about I might commit right now.’

“He said, ‘Wait until tomorrow.’

“So the next day, it was like 6 o’clock, I was like, ‘I’m posting.’ The day before I had our media arts teacher record the video and everything in the gym.

“I was like, ‘Hey, can you record this video, real quick.’

“He was like, ‘What?’

“I said, ‘My commitment video.’

“He was like, ‘Yeah, come on.’

“We did it in like 25 minutes. Mr. Seaney, shout out Mr. Seaney for that. Dropped the video the next day. I dropped it, and then I really just got off Instagram. I turned my Instagram notifications off for a while, turned the Twitter ones off. I was still in Florida, so I wasn’t with my family or anything. I was on the phone with my fam for a little bit.

“It was like 1,000 pounds off my back. It was crazy. Ever since then, it was so much easier to play basketball, knowing I wasn’t playing for anybody. I was just hoopin for myself after that. It was a great moment for me.”

On the stereotype that big guards aren’t good shooters

“I feel like people really haven’t even seen me shoot enough jump shots to say I can’t shoot, but I don’t care. Whatever. That’s whatever they think. A jump shot is essential in college basketball. I know that. That’s why I’ve been focusing on it so much because if you can’t shoot, it’s gonna be a tough time for you. Just trying to expand my game as much as I can I’m pretty confident in my shot now, and I shoot it. I guess everybody’s just gonna have to see this season.”

On how good he and Isaac Likekele can be defensively

“I think it’ll be a problem for a lot of teams just because we have a lot of length. Ice, I don’t think there’s anybody Ice can’t stay in front of. Having that to start it off, and I’m pretty confident in my defensive abilities, too. Having the length, and we have big guys behind us to protect the rim and everything, I think it’s gonna be a lot of problems for other teams for sure.”

On OSU’s guard depth

“We have a bunch of good guards that are coming off, well we don’t know if they’re coming off the bench or starting or whatever. We have a lot of other good guards that bring a lot of different abilities to the team, and I think that’s the best thing about us is we have a diverse set of abilities. Avery [Anderson] is one of the quickest guys I’ve seen and definitely one of the quickest guys I’ve guarded, so having that and having him as a pest off the ball, we just have so many different things that are going well for us that I feel like if we can get it all the mesh together, I think we can be really scary on defense.”

On what Boynton has meant to him

“My relationship with him is special. Special is the word I’m gonna use. It’s special because (he is) somebody I can always talk to. Anybody I ever need to reach out about anything, he’s always there for me. And he reaches out to me. It’s not like it’s a just a one-way street. He’s always checking on me, making sure I’m straight. Having that from your head coach, it’s something you can’t really find anywhere else. I’m happy I found it here.”

On the culture Boynton is building

“I think the biggest thing is as good as he wants us to be on the court, he makes sure that we’re not acting a fool off the court. He gives us our freedom. He lets us be college students, but he makes sure we know what we’re doing and we’re not out here doing the wrong things. Having that and then to translate on the basketball court with being responsible, being accountable, being hard-working, being all the different words that he’s always preaching to us.”

On if anyone on the team has surprised him so far

“I think everybody’s had a couple of those moments where they’ve shown a little something that we didn’t really think they had. I think the biggest thing for me was Chris Harris coming off his ACL and just the way that he’s worked and the way that he’s grinding himself all the way to he’s a player in practice. If you see him in a scrimmage, he doesn’t look like he’s just now coming off an ACL. Having him and the way he’s been working and helping out everybody — if somebody’s running late, he’ll be the first person to get in his car and go pick him up for practice. He’s doing all the little things right, and I can’t appreciate him more for that.”

On if he knew Chris Harris before getting to Stillwater

“Yeah, I knew Chris pretty well. I never played with him, but I knew him pretty well. Being around him 24/7 now, I get to grow a better relationship with him, and I think it’s only getting better.”

On how he became a point guard despite always being tall

“I knew I wasn’t going to get 6-10 like my big brother, so I kinda figured that the best way for me to stand out, I thought I was only going to get 6-6, so I figured the best way for me to stand out was being a guard.

“Playing quarterback, I liked to be in charge of things, so point guard was just the next closest thing. I always felt like point guard was one of the most fun positions to play. Ever since I transitioned over, it’s been fun for me. I’m not going back now. I’m having fun with it.

“I started (playing point guard), my 16U summer. I played 16s with my brother as the head coach for Drive Nation. I almost guarantee I ran more ball screens than any other player in the country. Every play, oh my gosh, I almost got tired of ball screens. ‘Like can somebody else get the ball for a ball screen?’ It was just reps for me. Looking back, I think it only helped me now because I feel like when I get in a ball screen, I’m comfortable now. So I appreciate my brother for that. At the time, I hated him for it. I was like, ‘Bruh, can we run some different offense?’ I was just so impatient with everything, but now I appreciate him for that. I feel like it helped me a whole lot.”

On if he looked to any NBA players during his transition to point guard

“Ben [Simmons] kinda has a different play style. Ben, being a point guard, he sets a whole lot of screens. He has kind of a different play style. I think the best person to watch now, I couldn’t really watch him my 16 year, is Luke [Doncic]. Luka has a pretty similar play style, but the way that he reads the game, I saw him play against Orlando in Orlando, just watching that, that’s probably the most fun I ever had watching basketball because the way he reads the game and everything. Luka is probably the guy I watch the most right now.”

On if he is happy with choosing OSU

“I’m more than happy. I feel like it turned out better than what I expected when I first came in. I knew I was gonna be happy, but I feel like it’s turned out even better than that. It gives me a real opportunity to change things. I feel like a lot of people are kind of downplaying a lot of things OSU can be, and I feel like now’s the opportunity to prove people wrong and show people what we can do. It’s been really exciting for me.”

On playing Big 12 teams in Big 12 venues

“I’m super excited. I live in Arlington, so Big 12 games were always around me. The Big 12 is what I used to always watch. Every day, you can turn on the TV and see a Big 12 game, so being able to actually play in that, I’m super excited for that. My family can travel to almost all the games. And all the gyms are all places I’ve always looked forward to playing in. I’m excited.

“I think Allen Fieldhouse is something that everybody wants to play in, but I think I’m really most excited to play against TCU and Texas with Mike Miles at TCU and Greg [Brown] at Texas. I think those are the two main places I’m excited to play in.”

On what he has seen from Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe and Rondel Walker

“I’ve seen them get more and more comfortable. I think with me, too. When we first got here, everything was just 1,000 miles per hour, and it took us a second to really slow down. As practices have went on and we’ve gotten used to the offenses, I’ve seen everybody get more comfortable. Now we’re really making plays, and I can see how we’re all gonna fit into this team.

“I’m excited for all three of us. MA, he brings so much to the table just because of his versatility and how hard he plays and his motor. He just knows to game. His IQ is through the roof. I feel like people don’t really know that about him. Having him, that’s gonna be a huge asset for us.

“Then Rondel, he’s like a supersonic out there. He’s everywhere. He’s super active. He can shoot the lights out. Having both of them, I think both of them are gonna be super productive for us.”

On Rondel Walker’s physical growth

“Shout out Coach Jake [Manzelmann], our strength and conditioning coach, he’s changed almost everybody’s body. Rondel, he came in skinny. Now he’s seeing his progress in the weight room. He’s kinda feeling himself a little bit with how he’s seeing some muscles poke out and everything. You can see it in his play. He’s playing confident, he’s making shots and I know he’s gonna be a big-time player. I’m super excited for him.”

On OSU’s social media team

“Everybody sees the OSU men’s basketball page, so we all know my guy Stephen [Howard] here and Courtney [Bay]. We know what they do. I don’t see a better duo in the country, really. I’ve seen the other pages, and I don’t know. Maybe I’m being bias just because these are my guys now, so I don’t know. Shoutout to them, they do their thing every time. I think they’re the best.

“It’s big. It’s not just that they come around every once and a while. They’re constantly around us, and we’ve built relationships with them. I think that’s huge for us because we don’t have to always feel like, ‘Oh, this the media team coming.’ They’re part of the program. They’re family to us, so having them there has been huge for us. The content that they put out is, everybody sees it. I don’t think it’s second to anybody.”

On if there has been an adjustment for him from going from high school to college

“It’s definitely a different speed. [Montverde Academy] Coach [Kevin] Boyle is not taking it easy on anybody. He didn’t care how many McDonald’s All-Americans we had, how many five stars, any of that. He treated us like we were nobodies. I appreciate him for that because he kinda showed us that now matter who you are, no matter who you think you are in basketball, there’s still more work to put in. Just taking that mindset and bringing it over to Oklahoma State, everybody here already has that mindset, everybody here was already working and knew what work was. It’s not something that’s gonna come easy, but you have to put work in to see results. Coming here, it’s definitely a faster speed, but I felt like I adjusted pretty quick because of what Coach Boyle prepared me to do.”

On how his chemistry with Ferron Flavors developed

“Him being vocal, he lets you know his spots and everything, but he has such a great IQ of the game. He helps me out being a point guard. He helps me see different things that maybe I couldn’t see when I’m making my reads. Having somebody like that and then the way he spaces the floor with his shooting ability, he doesn’t miss too many, so I know that I have a different confidence when I’m kicking the ball to him that he’s gonna make the shot. Having him, I think that’s gonna be a great asset for us.”

On meeting Viktor Hovland

“My grandpa, he’s big into golf, worked at Colonial for a long time. I’ve been to a PGA tournament, I’ve been in the mix a little bit. He was just working out, and Coach Boynton said something to him, I think Stephen [Howard] said something to him, I didn’t really know, it’s just his rookie year, so I didn’t really know him too well. But they gave me his resume, and instantly, I was like, ‘Oh yeah, let me tighten up and make sure I’m acting right.’ Having somebody like that in your presence, you gotta make sure you’re on your 10s. It was definitely great to meet him.”

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