Even with NCAA penalties looming, Cade Cunningham is staying put.
The five-star basketball recruit and potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft announced Monday that he intends to stay at Oklahoma State, despite OSU having a postseason ban for the 2020-21 season.
“It’s standing by the people you started with,” Cunningham said in a video announcement on social media. “It’s showing up even when times are hard. It’s believing in the people who always believed in you. It’s commitment. Now more than ever, I’m loyal and true. I’m committed. Stillwater, let’s work.”
While loyalty to the school and town were clear deciding factors in Cunningham’s re-commitment, another portion is in large part thanks to his relationship with coach Mike Boynton.
“I’ve talked to Cade, probably, more in the last four years than anybody outside of his family,” Boynton said. “We have a very, very strong relationship outside of basketball. There are actually often times that I’ve talked to Cade in the last three and a half years that basketball wasn’t even a topic of discussion. It was truly about, ‘How do I help him, through the experiences I’ve had, be successful in the things he’s trying to accomplish?’”
While Cunningham is projected as one of the best draft prospects in recent memory, his supporting cast also gives Boynton optimism about next season. So far 11 players have reaffirmed their commitment to the Cowboys next season.
“A lot’s gonna be made about Cade today, and rightfully so, there’s a grad transfer in this conversation who can’t be forgotten. He only has one opportunity to play college basketball again, in Ferron Flavors, and for him to stay firm on his commitment, again shows that he’s a kid who believes that his word has value, that he wants to be someone who sacrifices a little bit, maybe on the front end, so that he can achieve something with a group of guys that he believes in. But it says a lot about how these kids were raised.”
For Boynton, the commitments were special. It’s difficult enough to land the No. 1 player and No. 11 recruiting class in the country, but Boynton had to do it twice.
“I don’t know if it’s unfair to say it’s more significant, probably because there’s a lot of opportunity for these guys to be pulled in different directions,” he said. “Any sign of negativity and things not being as comfortable usually causes most people to look in another direction for that hope.”