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Notebook: Cade Cunningham on Luka Doncic, HBCUs and Renewing Tradition

Is Cunningham the next Luka?



Cade Cunningham was introduced to the local media for the first time Wednesday, and he covered a variety of topics.

We’ve already put out stuff on why he chose to stick with OSU despite recent NCAA sanctions and his thoughts on working alongside Isaac Likekele. Here are three other things Cunningham discussed.

On Learning from LeBron and Luka

Cunningham has been compared to Luka Doncic for a while now, and he only fueled that fire Wednesday.

When asked who are some NBA guys he looks up to, he mentioned two. The one everyone in Cunningham’s age range mentions, LeBron James. And the Slovenian wonder boy.

“It’s tough,” Cunningham said. “I switch a whole lot. I switch a whole lot. LeBron has been probably my biggest influence just throughout my childhood, just because he’s been the best since I’ve been around and watching basketball. But right now I watch a whole bunch of Luka Doncic. I grew up in Dallas, so Dirk [Nowitzki] was my guy and now Luka’s the new Dallas Mavs guy. So Luka, and we have a pretty similar body type. So probably Luka right now.”

Doncic is a 6-foot-7, 218-pound point guard for the Dallas Mavericks. Cunningham is a 6-7.5, 215-pound point guard from the Dallas area. The comparisons between the two pop up nearly any time Cunningham is compared to any NBA player.

Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman compared the two in May. Wasserman noted that Doncic is a better perimeter scorer, but Cunningham has more defensive upside.

“[James and Doncic are] both really big-time playmakers,” Cunningham said. “Those guys are on such a high level. That’s the level that I dream of being on. That’s the level that I’m working for. Just watching them, the way that they see the game and make defenses almost do what they want them to do. They manipulate defenses so well. I watch a lot of film on both of those guys. I try to take as much as I can. I feel like copying always works in basketball, so I’m going to do that as much as I can.”

For what it’s worth, Cunningham also went on record saying he has James being better than Michael Jordan.

Applauding Makur Maker

Makur Maker’s recruitment process was as interesting as anyone’s in the country.

Maker is the No. 17 player in the 2020 class. He is a five-star, 6-11 center who had been long thought to be going overseas to play professional basketball, but on Friday, Maker committed to Howard, a historically black university in D.C.

With the social unrest going on in the country, something that has been brought up is the idea of black prospects choosing HBCUs over traditional athletic powers, something Cunningham said he supports.

“I’d really love to see it grow,” Cunningham said. “I think Makur Maker going there is a really big first step for it. It was a really bold move, and I’m super happy for him. I feel like it was a great move for him just because it brings more awareness to it. I was never recruited by any HBCUs. I only like HBCUs because all my childhood friends’ parents went to them. They’re going to them now. I’ve always been a fan of HBCUs. The Grambling vs. Prairie View game has always been such a big event that everyone wants to go to. I definitely advise all my little bros that are coming up right now to go to HBCUs and Oklahoma State.”

Renewing Tradition

Oklahoma State has tradition, just not recent tradition.

The Big 12 is widely considered one of the best basketball conferences in the country at the moment, and OSU is one of only two Big 12 programs to have won multiple national championships, winning back-to-back in 1945 and 1946 (Kansas is the other program with three national championships).

Since those Henry Iba-coached titles, OSU has been to four Final Fours, most recently in 2004.

Cunningham can be a big link into getting OSU back to that status.

“I really like [Oklahoma State University], I love it,” Cunningham said. “I feel like this is the opportunity to get that history rolling and start a new trend of, you can be a top guy and go to Oklahoma State and succeed. I feel like Oklahoma State was the perfect fit for me because of the Big 12, the coaching staff, the location. … I don’t really feel any pressure of playing basketball because that’s a game that I’ve done since I was a little kid. There’s no pressure in playing basketball. It’s a game at the end of the day, and I feel like I’m pretty good at it.”

Cunningham is the program’s first five-star recruit since Marcus Smart came to Stillwater in part of the 2012 class. Le’Bryan Nash was a five-star Poke in the class before, but neither were considered the caliber of prospect that Cunningham is.

Cunningham is the No. 1 player in what seems to be a stacked class. Smart was No. 10 in 2012 and Nash was No. 8 in 2011. Cunningham said he doesn’t feel pressure when it comes to playing basketball, but he and the Cowboys performing well in his one year in Stillwater could open the floodgates for OSU and Mike Boynton.

“I want to be the guinea pig for it, and I don’t think guinea pig is the right word because I don’t feel like I’m testing anything out,” Cunningham said. “I really feel confident in the fact that Coach Boynton can get me where I want to be and the rest of our staff can do that. It’s really just for me to show everybody else that’s coming up that it’s possible wherever you want to go. If you’re good enough to be that pick that you want to be, you can do that. NBA scouts, they’re going to find you if you’re that good. I feel like Coach Boynton is who I wanted to play for. That’s who I feel like can get me to that platform and to that level. After that, I think a lot more people will want to follow behind and use that same route.”

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