It’s been three full months since college basketball season ended, with four full months until it begins, and while June isn’t usually a big time for college hoops news, this year is the exception. The biggest news comes out of Stillwater, where the Oklahoma State Cowboys have been put on probation and given a one-year postseason ban. And because of it, Cade Cunningham – the No. 1 high school player in America, and a one-time Kentucky recruit – has had his future put in the air.
Cunningham has no shortage of options, ranging from staying at Oklahoma State, transferring to another school or going pro. And while both Jack Pilgrim and I believe that the best bet is that he stays at Oklahoma State, it is a situation worth at least monitoring for Kentucky fans.
It’s a question that I posed to Oklahoma State head coach Mike Boynton when I welcomed him to this week’s episode of KSR’s Aaron Torres Podcast. You can listen to the full interview below, where Boynton and I discuss a wide-ranging list of topics, ranging from the Cowboys battle with the NCAA to what’s next for the school.
But the biggest topic remains the future of Cunningham. And to Boynton’s credit he was very direct when asked about his star recruit.
“Every player on my roster, if you include him and the rest of the recruiting class that’s on the roster, they all have options,” Boynton said. “He probably has more options than anybody because of the professional element out there for him. But there’s no real update, we are still trying to gather information and see what the process is going to look like.”
“So for me, it’s just about making sure there’s clarity for him and how we’re approaching it. And that we have honest conversations about what the options are. And I’m not in the position to try and sway him from doing what he wants to do. My job is to help him understand what each options means. There’s upside and maybe a little downside to every situation. Whether it be overseas in Europe or on another continent, going to the G-League, going to another college, or sticking with Oklahoma State. Every situation is going to present some positives and probably some negatives.”
It’s a commendable stance by Boynton, especially since it could mean potentially losing a program-altering recruit in Cunningham. The Cowboys went 18-14 last season, and probably would have been an NCAA Tournament bubble team had the squad not gone 1-3 when star Isaac Likekele missed four games. With several key pieces back plus the addition of Cunningham and a Top 10 ranked recruiting class, Oklahoma State should be a tourney team – if they can win an NCAA appeal.
So yes, there are reasons for Cunningham to return to Oklahoma State, even if a trip to the NCAA Tournament isn’t a guarantee (or even necessarily likely). Another reason is the relationship that Cunningham has built with the entire coaching staff at Oklahoma State. Yes, that includes Cunningham’s brother Cannen, but also the relationship he built with Boynton himself. Boynton was the first person to offer Cunningham a scholarship, back when he was just 14-years-old.
“I haven’t said this much,” Boynton began. “But I thought Cade was the best player in the country before anybody, including him. And our relationship really was built just on genuine appreciation on what I thought he could become if he had an intentional work ethic. And he does.”
“This deal with his brother, I don’t want to discount it. It’s real. I hired him, he’s on my staff. He’s a good friend, he’s a good dude, he’s going to be a great coach. But I didn’t even have a conversation with Cannen, Cade’s brother, for two years before I hired him. I recruited Cade for two years before I ever had a conversation with Cannen. My relationship with Cade is even stronger than my relationship with Cannen. And in fact, in this whole situation, I haven’t talked to Cannen about Cade. I’ve talked to Cade about Cade. Because it’s about him, it’s not about his brother. His brother has his own deal that he’s doing and if he comes here, that will be a big part of them enjoying this experience together. And that will be awesome to see.”
Overall, the conversation with Boynton is fascinating and should provide the best context yet on what actually went on at Oklahoma State and what is next for the school.
To download the full episode to your phone, click here.
And to listen to the episode, click below.