UNION, N.J. — From Kyrie Irving to D'Angelo Russell to Ben Simmons to R.J. Barrett, Kevin Boyle has coached his share of future NBA guards.
The next in line could be Cade Cunningham, the 6-foot-7 junior point guard for a Montverde (FL) Academy team ranked No. 3 nationally by USA Today.
Ranked No. 10 in the Class of 2020 by ESPN.com, Cunningham is projected as the No. 14 pick in one 2021 NBA mock.
“Cade Cunningham is an NBA guard,” longtime New York recruiting expert Tom Konchalski said Friday after Cunningham had nine points, six assists and three rebounds in an 89-51 rout of Ranney (N.J.) at the Metro Classic at Kean University.
Cunningham's goal is to play in the NBA, and that partly explains why he transferred last July to Montverde from Arlington (TX) Bowie.
He made the move after being named the District 4-6A co-MVP and averaging 18.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists last season.
Cunningham models his game after Simmons and LeBron James and has taken over the point guard duties this year at Montverde, which now has a two-month break until the GEICO High School Nationals in New York in early April.
“I think it’s dangerous because I’m big and it’s hard to put a little guard on me because I can see over them,” Cunningham said. “And there’s not a lot of big people that can guard at the point. I think it’s a really big mismatch problem for other teams. And I think the NBA’s getting bigger and bigger and that’s the plan to one day play in the NBA so just being a big guard.”
@CadeCunningham_ showed out at the @MetroClassic held at @KeanUniversity.— Fresh Focus Sports (@freshfocusports) February 11, 2019
With @UNC Head Coach Roy Williams in attendance the @MVABasketball junior displayed a pace and control rarely seen by a 6’5 point guard pic.twitter.com/cM14MaamdD
Cunningham practices every day against a slew of high-major prospects, including uncommitted McDonald’s All-American Precious Achiuwa, uncommitted senior combo guard Harlond Beverly, junior guard Moses Moody and Florida State-bound 7-footer Balsa Koprivica.
“I think he’s really developed this year at becoming more of a point guard, playing that position as a big guard,” said Boyle, whose career accomplishments make him a candidate for the Naismith Hall of Fame. “He's gotten better in every area, and hopefully next year he can take that next step and be one of the elite players that we’ve had over the years.
“He’s working towards it, he’s gotta show consistency.”
On the recruiting front, Kentucky, Virginia and home-state school TCU are among Cunningham’s strongest suitors.
“Virginia and Kentucky,” Boyle said. “There’s a couple more but those are definitely two that he mentioned to me. He also said he likes TCU.”
Cunningham also holds offers from Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Tulane, among others, but prefers not to elaborate on his recruitment too much.
“I don’t really discuss my recruitment a lot but there’s a lot of schools that are recruiting me very hard,” he said. “I think after the school season I’ll probably cut down my list a little bit.”
As for Kentucky's interest, he said: “Right now they’re just keeping tabs on me. They haven't really gotten too deep into what they want out of me so we’ll see how that goes.”
His brother Cannen Cunningham played at SMU, so they are also involved.
“SMU because my older brother played for SMU,” he said.
He also has connections to other schools, including Oklahoma State and Tulane.
“Oklahoma State was my first offer,” he told Hoopseen.com in 2017. “Coach [Mike] Boynton actually offered me when he was an assistant coach. Now he’s the head coach, so that means a lot. I really like him and we have a good relationship.”
As for Tulane, Cunningham told Hoopseen, “My brother’s roommate is actually Coach [Mike] Dunleavy’s nephew, so we are connected like that. That’s how we are familiar with each other. I like what Coach Dunleavy has had to say and we have built a nice relationship.”
For now, Cunningham is focused on the GEICO High School Nationals and will then take his recruitment to the next step.
His ultimate goal is to follow Simmons and James into the NBA as a big guard.
“Those are the best two,” he said. “Just modeling after them I don’t think you can go wrong with that.”