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Cunningham's size unlocks versatility for Cowboys

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Cowboy Basketball First Official Practice

Image Taken At Cowboy Basketball First Official Practice, Gallagher-Iba Arena, Wednesday, October 14, 2020, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK. Courtney Bay/OSU Athletics

Cade Cunningham is not built like the average point guard.

The No. 1 recruit in the country is highly touted for many aspects of his game. The playmaking, the scoring, the vision.

But his height is what puts him in a different category and will have a big impact on how the Oklahoma State men’s basketball team approaches its strategy this season.

With his skillset, the 6-foot-8, 220-pound Cunningham’s sheer size and length will be a matchup nightmare for opposing teams. He’ll likely be bigger than anyone who draws his defensive assignment.

He’s a point guard, but he can play virtually anywhere on the court on both sides of the ball.

When OSU’s practices split players into guards and bigs, coach Mike Boynton said Cunningham receives ample work with both groups.

“We wanna develop his skills as a post up guy,” Boynton said. “Most of the time the guys guarding him are gonna be guards. If they’re not 6-8, they won’t be 6-9, so they’ll be smaller, so we want him inside as much as possible.”

Not only is that a mismatch, but it’s beneficial for a team with a relatively small roster because it allows them to get more of its plethora of guards on the court. Three or even four-guard lineups could become a regularity.

Playing sophomore Avery Anderson alongside Cunningham and Isaac Likekele gets another playmaker on the court. Chris Harris and Ferron Flavors add floor spacing.

“I think that’s the best thing about us is we have a diverse set of abilities,” Cunningham said. “We just have so many things that are going well for us, I just think if we can get it all connected together, we’ll be real good.”

Cunningham will allow OSU to be just as versatile on the defensive end.

He can realistically guard 1-4 and potentially even some stretch fives.

Pairing him with Likekele, who has established himself as an elite defender, in the backcourt will be a nuisance for opposing teams.

“I haven’t seen a lot of other teams so I don’t want to compare them to anybody else,” Boynton said. “But in terms of the teams that I’ve coached, they will be as good a defensive backcourt as I’ve coached in my career. And I’ve coached some pretty good defensive teams.”

Running a three-guard lineup with Anderson on the floor as well would be an elite defensive unit. Anderson’s biggest contribution as a freshman was his pesky ball pressure. Cunningham called him one of the quickest guys he’s seen.

“We have a lot of length,” Cunningham said. “Honestly, I don’t think there’s anybody Ice can’t stay in front of. And I’m pretty confident in my defensive abilities too. I think it’s gonna be a problem for a lot of teams.”

sports.ed@ocolly.com