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'This is the opportunity to get that history rolling': Cade Cunningham hopes to start a new trend at OSU

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Image Taken at Orange Power Studios, Thursday, July 2, 2020, Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, OK. Courtney Bay/OSU Athletics

Duke, Kentucky, Kansas — the list of top-tier schools that routinely swoop up 5-star recruits is striking.

But Oklahoma State isn’t on that list.

Still, OSU coach Mike Boynton managed to swoop up No. 1-ranked recruit Cade Cunningham and put together a top-5 recruiting class.

To the country, it may only look like one 5-star gravitating to a lightly-coveted program is a rarity, but perhaps it’s more.

“This is the opportunity to get that history rolling and start a new trend of, ‘You can be a top guy and go to Oklahoma State and succeed,’” Cunningham said.

What’s incredible about the recruitment of this stacked class is that it comes on the heels of a 12-win season in 2018-19. Cunningham and 4-star recruit Rondel Walker — the two highest-rated players in this class — committed before the season even began.

While the Cowboys were a little better in the 2019-20 season, Boynton isn’t compiling these recruits because he has a boatload of wins to back up his case, he’s getting them because of his personality.

It’s the same reason he got a premier one-and-done to commit to OSU.

“The NBA is the end goal for me,” Cunningham said. “Hopefully, it’s in one year, but if it’s not, I’m comfortable with the people that I’m around. I’m comfortable that — if I stay here four years, I would be just as happy as I am going into this year.”

And that’s almost a crazy thought. People would be in utter disbelief if Cunningham wasn’t a top-10 pick in 2021, let alone stay in college for more than a year.

But that’s just a testament to what Boynton has built in Stillwater. A program where graduate transfer Ferron Flavors Jr. decided to stay at OSU for his last season despite the potential to make the NCAA Tournament for the first and only time in his career.

For many across the country, it may look like OSU’s uplift in talent may be temporary, but Cunningham sees it as more.

“I want to be the guinea pig — and I don’t think guinea pig is the right word — because I don’t think I’m testing anything out,” Cunningham said. “I really feel confident in the fact that coach Boynton and get me where I want to be. And the rest of our staff can do that. It’s really just for me to show everybody else coming up that it’s possible wherever you want to go.”

This wouldn’t be the first college basketball program that converted an era of struggles into an abyss of sunshine.

Cunningham wants this to be the next. He wants it to be a place where top-notch talent can make a pitstop before darting for the NBA.

“If you’re good enough to be that pick that you want to be, then you can do that,” Cunningham said. “The NBA scouts will find you if you’re that good. I feel like coach Boynton is who I wanted to play for, that’s who can get me to that platform and to that level. I think after that, a lot more people will want to follow behind and use that same route.”

sports.ed@ocolly.com