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Practice with pros: Moncrieffe and Cunningham's connection strengthened by offseason workouts

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Cowboy Basketball First Official Practice

Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe and Cade Cunningham, the No. 1 players in their respective countries, are already establishing a connection on the court.

Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe packed his bags and took a 1,500-mile flight to live with Cade Cunningham.

He couldn’t pass up the chance to work out with professional basketball players.

Cunningham had been working out with NBA players such as Emmanuel Mudiay and Oklahoma State alumnus Marcus Smart.

Moncrieffe was absorbed into an atmosphere unlike anything he’s ever experienced.

“(Cunningham) would go in there and he’s killing pros,” Moncrieffe said. “It definitely got rowdy in those open gyms. There were guys competing. I loved all that.”

Cunningham is the consensus No. 1 pick in next year’s NBA draft. He has a place on the same court as two players selected in the top seven, despite his age.

Moncrieffe doesn’t have the same name recognition, hype or expectations. But he proved he has enticing potential.

“When you’re in the gym with great defensive players like Marcus Smart, whoever, guys making millions of dollars, and you’re in there making buckets, that’s a confidence booster,” Moncrieffe said. “It showed me I wasn’t too far away from where these guys are, and I can be where they are for sure with some work.”

It’s clear why he said his confidence grew after competing with the pros. Smart has been named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team two years in a row.

It was nice for him to reassure himself of his abilities against an All-Star caliber player, but Moncrieffe’s most important asset was All-Star insight.

“For me, it was educational learning from all of those high-level players,” Moncrieffe said. “They teach me a lot about the game — how I could use my body, how I could get guys open.”

Moncrieffe said the spring workouts strengthened his on-court connection with Cunningham. They were able to pick up on each other’s tendencies and how to complement each other’s playstyles.

OSU coach Mike Boynton said he notices that connection in practices. He knows the two will only have one season together, but he’s hoping to get the most from it.

“(Moncrieffe) and Cade have an unusual chemistry for guys who haven’t played a real game together,” Boynton said. “It’s going to enhance our ability to be a step ahead from where we would normally be with two freshmen coming from two totally different places.”

sports.ed@ocolly.com