A foregone conclusion from years ago finally came true on Thursday night, July 29, 2021 as the Detroit Pistons selected former Oklahoma State basketball star Cade Cunningham with the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft.
Though Cunningham last donned an orange-and-black jersey months ago, he will continue to have an impact on the fortunes of OSU hoops for years to come.
As the the league’s newest No. 1 overall draft pick, Cade Cunningham’s NBA success can have an impact on Oklahoma State basketball well into the future.
Look no further than former five-star recruit Moussa Cisse, who just transferred to the Cowboys this offseason after one season with Memphis. The native of the West African country of Guinea was candid on what brought him to Stillwater in remarks that he made to ESPN:
“I see what they did with Cade Cunningham,” Cisse said. “I had to decide whether to go to the NBA or college. I watched a lot of film and saw the way they developed players. That was attractive to me. Coach Mike Boynton . . . can give me a chance to develop my game and take it to the next level.”
Cunningham has borne the load and the pressure of being the best player in college basketball with grace. He’s handled the double-teams, true, but he’s also accepted the constant spotlight, the consistent media attention, and the overall buzz (social media or otherwise) that comes with being the presumptive No. 1 NBA Draft pick for more than a year.
He’s also represented OSU and now, the Pistons, with impressive maturity, as he smiled at the TV cameras while wearing his suit and holding his young daughter, Riley, at his side until his name was called.
Though Arlington, Tex. native had a disappointing end to his short career as a Cowboy, losing in the NCAA Tournament’s second round to a No. 12 seed in Oregon State, he accomplished more, in some cases, than any other player in OSU history. After averaging more than 20 points, six rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game, he became only the fourth Big 12 player to win Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year, and he became only the second Cowboy unanimous first-team All-American (besides Bob Kurland).
Cunningham’s impact on OSU will become even greater if he begins successfully in the pro ranks. Countless talented high school players who see the former OSU All-American hit jump shots in the NBA will see a path for themselves to the league, a path that could easily take them through Stillwater under the tutelage of head coach Mike Boynton.
It’s an instant selling point to high school recruits and to guys in the transfer portal like Cisse. Boynton and his staff will welcome an impressive array of newcomers to Stillwater this fall, including Kansas transfer and former Booker T. star Bryce Thompson, himself a former five-star recruit.
It’s up to Boynton and the current bunch of Cowboys to lead the program to heights not seen since nearly two decades ago, when Elite 8 and Final Four trips were the norm.
But with the continued exposure of OSU hoops tied to a hopefully successful beginning to Cunningham’s NBA career, the Cowboys can reap the benefits of its most famous one-and-done star far into the future.