OSU basketball: Why Cade Cunningham's impact on the Cowboys might last much longer than his college career
The last time Oklahoma State got a basketball recruit of Cade Cunningham's ilk, things worked out smashingly.
Marcus Smart wasn't quite as highly heralded as Cunningham, the top guard in the 2020 recruiting class who committed to the Cowboys on Tuesday. But Smart was a huge recruit. A five-star sought by all the top schools. A can't-miss prospect on his way to the NBA.
And he turned out to be every bit as good as advertised.
Then, darned if the Cowboys didn't have him for two years.
Remember the press conference Smart did along with LeBryan Nash and Markel Brown? All three announced to adoring fans at the OSU Student Union that they'd return for another season together.
Those were the quaint days of 2013.
Those days are over.
At a time Cowboy fans everywhere are rejoicing — there is a light at the end of what has been, at times, a very dark tunnel — no one can steal that joy. Cunningham is unbelievable. Skilled. Strong. Agile. The 6-foot-6 combo guard from Arlington, Texas, is being pegged by some as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
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He'll bring the rowdy and then some back to Gallagher-Iba Arena.
But if you want to see him, you need to go next season. Nowadays, talents the likes of Cunningham aren't staying in college more than a year.
The tip top of the NBA Draft has been taken over one-and-done players, guys who turn pro after only one year in college. Players with lottery-pick potential leave as soon as possible because they've seen what happens to prospects like them — they get drafted high and make millions.
Earlier this year, six of the first 10 picks in the draft were one-and-done players.
In 2018, eight of the first 10.
In 2017, 10 of the first 11.
On and on it goes.
In 2014, the year Smart was drafted sixth overall, one-and-dones were drafted in the top four spots and Dante Exum, who was taken right before Smart, was a none-and-done. Exum passed up college and instead played at the Australian Institute of Sport.
A top-10 talent who stays in college more than a year is becoming more and more like a unicorn. Beautiful but a fairy tale.
Cunningham is that kind of player.
Even though his time in Stillwater is likely to be brief, his impact could be felt long after he's left town. That's because Cunningham is drawing other great players to OSU. Putnam West four-star guard Rondel Walker committed a week ago, likely knowing Cunningham would do the same.
Others may follow. J.T. Thor, a four-star power forward from Georgia, seems to be leaning toward the Cowboys, and Bryce Thompson, a five-star guard from Tulsa Washington, is now getting lots of social media love from Cunningham.
Even though Cunningham is likely a one-and-done, all the rest of those recruits probably aren't. They could become the genesis for the resurrection of OSU basketball, not only winning lots of games but also drawing even more top recruits.
The year before Smart committed to the Cowboys, LeBryan Nash went to OSU. He was actually more highly rated than Smart and undoubtedly helped draw Smart to Stillwater. Getting to play with another great player is never a bad thing.
So it is with Cunningham — whose older brother, Cannen, joined the coaching staff this season. Just as superstars in the NBA cluster, five-star recruits team together in college. Happens pretty much every year now at Duke and Kentucky and the like.
Now with Cunningham's commitment, the Cowboys are trending that way. Who knows how good they could be? Who knows what heights they could reach? It should create excitement and energy the likes of which Gallagher-Iba hasn't had for basketball in several years.
Cade Cunningham's time in Stillwater promises to be special, even if isn't all that long.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.