The 2019 Nike EYBL circuit tipped off this weekend in Atlanta, Georgia, with the event setting a record for the most ESPN top-100 participating prospects of all time.
One of the best in attendance? 2020 five-star small forward Cade Cunningham.
Cunningham, a 6-foot-6, 215-pound prospect out of Montverde, FL, is considered a consensus top-10 recruit in his class, and he proved that in front of just about every big-name head coach and assistant in the country this weekend. In session one of arguably the most competitive AAU event this year, Cunningham was a man amongst boys.
In four games of action, the elite forward averaged 25.5 points on 62% shooting and 37% from three, doing just about everything you can think of for his Texas Titans. He drove the basket at will, bullied defenders in the paint, brought the ball up the floor, rebounded, defended, and above all else, won. His Titans went 4-0 on the weekend, and looked dominant just about every time they touched the floor.
— EGB ?? (@EricGetsBuckets) April 28, 2019
During his first media availability of the AAU season, Cunningham told KSR that he was excited to show just how much he brings to the table against elite competition.
“I’m versatile, I feel like I can do a lot of things, guard a lot of positions. I can play a lot of positions offensively,” he said. “I feel like I’m a really good leader, I like to lead my guys, be like the quarterback for my team. And I just like to win, so I feel like that brings some more value to me.”
Luckily for Kentucky fans, a quick gander at his Crystal Ball on 247 Sports seems to indicate that he’s John Calipari’s to-lose, with the Wildcats garnering 100% of his recruiting predictions. Insider Jerry Meyer even has a pick in favor of Kentucky.
Unfortunately for those hoping to see a quick-and-easy recruitment, though, Cunningham is here to tell you that’s just not the reality of the situation.
In fact, he says his recruitment hasn’t even really started yet.
“Especially after Geico Nationals, (my recruitment) started to really go up,” he said. “I’m starting to be happy with it, but haven’t thought about it too much. After the summer I’ll definitely start looking more into it (and cut my list down).”
In terms of specific teams with interest, he says some of the blue bloods, along with schools close to his hometown of Arlington, TX, are among those reaching out the most.
“Kentucky, Kansas, they picked it up a lot over the last couple of weeks,” he said. “And the same schools that recruited me hard in the past are still recruiting me: Virginia, Texas, Texas A&M, especially now with Buzz Williams. He’s starting to recruit me very hard. Michigan, all those schools.”
As far as the the Wildcats and Jayhawks, what are their respective pitches?
“They just tell me they love my demeanor, how I play different positions, how versatile I am,” he said. “And my leadership, mainly. They’re just telling me how much they love to coach kids like that.”
With Kentucky specifically, John Calipari is telling him that he can step in and become yet another NBA playmaker alongside several other elite talents.
In his eyes, it’d be silly to not consider that as a serious option.
“They have produced a lot of NBA guards, and, you know, Coach Cal is a great coach. They’re always going to compete for a national championship, which is what I want to do. They’re always going to have good players, so if I were to go to Kentucky, I know I’d have plenty of good players to play around me. That’s mainly what they’re pitching to me.”
But when it comes to his Crystal Ball and the other recruiting services that feel he’s a lock to end up in Lexington, Cunningham says he has no idea where that rumor even started. Though one is expected sooner rather than later, he doesn’t even hold an offer from Kentucky yet.
“Everybody says I’m 100% to Kentucky. To be honest, I don’t know where it came from, I was shocked when I first saw it,” he said. “Nobody ever asked me about it. I mean, it’s cool, Coach Cal is a great coach, and it’s hard not to take that into consideration. But like I said, I’m just not looking into my recruitment that hard right now. I love all the interest I’m getting from all the coaches, but after the season is when I’ll really look into it.”
He acknowledged that Kentucky’s interest is ramping up and that they’ll be in consideration throughout the process, but they are on an even playing field as all of the other schools reaching out to him.
Once the AAU season dies down a bit, then he’ll get a better grasp on his favorite schools and where he might be leaning. Until then, though, his recruitment is wide open.
“It’s definitely starting to pick up now with them,” he said. “But there are a lot of sites that say I’m 100% here, 100% there, I don’t believe in any of that because they haven’t talked to me. I have the same interest in (Kentucky) as I do with all my teams and coaches right now. I’ll start looking more into it after my AAU season, but right now I’m open to everybody.”