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The Pull of Cade Cunningham is Very Real, and it’s Spectacular

Everyone wants to join Cade’s orbit. It’s an appeal OSU is taking advantage of.

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Getting five-star Cade Cunningham, now the No. 1-ranked recruit in the Class of 2020 and the way-too-early-but-not-quite-too-early favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, to commit and sign with Oklahoma State last fall was a godsend for Mike Boynton. An expected one after hiring his older brother, Cannen, to join his staff. But a godsend nonetheless.

But it was just the first major coup for him in the past few months related to Cunningham. Because behind the scenes, Boynton in stealth has converted and empowered his best recruit to also become his best and most valuable recruiter.

The fruits of that are still being harvested, but here’s the sequence of events that have come about after Cunningham’s commitment on Nov. 5, 2019, and subsequent signing on Nov. 13, 2019.

• Nov. 14, 2019: Rondel Walker — a teammate of Cunningham’s on the AAU circuit — signs with OSU after committing two weeks prior (with obvious knowledge that Cade was coming)

• Nov. 21, 2019: Montreal Pena — a teammate of Cunningham’s on the AAU circuit — commits and signs with OSU

• Feb. 21, 2020: Matthew Alexander-Moncrieffe commits to Oklahoma State over Florida, Georgetown, Arizona State and others

• March 30, 2020: Grad transfer Ferron Flavors — one of the best spot-up shooters in all of college basketball, and an elite 3-point shooter — commits to Oklahoma State

• April 13, 2020: Three-star guard Donovan Williams, a prolific scorer, commits to Oklahoma State

The connections to Cade are real. AAU teammate. AAU teammate. Elite, rangy wing. Shooters who know they’ll get clean looks around Cade. This is Mike Boynton’s recruiting class but it might as well be Cade’s team. Boynton just has to point a certain direction and Cade can close.

Here’s what Williams told PFB’s Marshall Scott about why he chose OSU after initially submitting a silent commitment to K-State’s staff last week.

“Playing with a pro, you can’t really beat that,” Williams said. “There’s not many players with the opportunity to go play with the No. 1 player in the country. Learning his ways, being around him every day, learning how he works out, how he eats, how he sleeps, how he functions, what he does to be a pro because he already is one. Why wouldn’t I take advantage of that and use his stuff to help me out?”

Cunningham is a pro. I’ve talked to scouts about him who have told me he’d be the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft if he was eligible. He’s that good (and this year’s draft is that weak).

The draw is real, even if it’s not lasting; he’s a no-doubt-about-it one-and-done talent. He’ll be gone just as quickly as he’s here. But even the flashbang of his existence at OSU is luring players to Stillwater, America, left and right. (And it’s not the Eskimo Joes doing the selling.)

It’s a continuance of a trend in high-major basketball that has trickled into Oklahoma State’s attack on the recruiting trail: top-level recruits recruiting other top-level recruits. Here’s what Gary Parrish said about it last year:

Welcome to high-major basketball recruiting in 2019 — where the players, as opposed to the coaches, do a lot of the heavy lifting. It happens via Facetime. It happens via group-texts. And over the past week, here in the shadows of Cheyenne Mountain, it happened pretty much everywhere as some of the best Class of 2020 prospects who are already committed used every available opportunity to recruit for the school to which they have pledged their allegiance. [CBS Sports]

It’s a luxury for OSU that it has seldom been blessed with: having more appeal than most programs because of what the roster will look like next season. And it’s one OSU is taking advantage of by compiling shooters, defenders and a top-10 recruiting class to put alongside the best recruit in OSU basketball history.

Now the question becomes who is next. By the numbers, OSU doesn’t have a scholarship to give. But OSU is not done yet. Especially not if Mike Boynton says they aren’t. There are more dominoes to drop. It appears Cade Cunningham is working on Greg Brown. Class of 2021 center Adama Sanogo looks like a viable commit-and-reclassify option. Heck, maybe both are on the table. Let’s get weird.

Let’s also adjust to our new reality surrounding Oklahoma State basketball. These are not normal times. Cade Cunningham is not a normal recruit. And with a blue chip recruit-turned-assistant in tow, the sky is the limit for how OSU can close the class.

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