Cade Cunningham Will Stay Committed to Oklahoma State

Cade Cunningham Will Stay Committed to Oklahoma State

When the N.C.A.A. barred the Oklahoma State men’s basketball program from the 2020-21 postseason as part of a series of penalties earlier this month, it suddenly thrust Cade Cunningham into a state of limbo.

Cunningham, a 6-foot-7 point guard from Arlington, Texas, who is ranked among the top players in his high school class, could have remained committed to Oklahoma State, where his brother Cannen Cunningham is an assistant coach. It would mean sticking it out with a program that would miss the N.C.A.A. tournament in what figured to be his lone season in college. He could have asked out of his national letter of intent and transferred to a blue-blood program, like Kentucky. Or he could have gone the professional route, signing with the N.B.A. G League or playing overseas before entering a draft in which he could be the first pick.

After staying in touch for the last two weeks with Oklahoma State Coach Mike Boynton, Cunningham made his plans official through a video he posted on Twitter: He will play for the Cowboys this coming season.

“Now more than ever, I’m loyal and true,” he said Monday. “I’m committed. Stillwater. Let’s work.”

Oklahoma State’s penalty on June 5 came after Lamont Evans, a former assistant coach, pleaded guilty in federal court to accepting $22,000 in bribes to funnel players to a financial adviser. The school argued that Evans operated as a lone wolf and did so only for personal gain — not to give the program any competitive advantage — and that the violations should not have been classified as Level 1, the most severe category.

The penalties could be an ominous sign for other universities that were a part of the federal college basketball corruption scandal, including Kansas, Arizona and Louisville. During the case, witnesses testified in federal court that money was funneled by agents and shoe company representatives to college players and their families.

The school had until Saturday to make its appeal, which could provide a stay for penalties that include the loss of three scholarships over the next three seasons, a $10,000 fine plus 1 percent of the basketball budget, and a host of recruiting restrictions, many of which were self-imposed.

Boynton said he was hoping the appeal would be successful and his team would not face a postseason ban. The Cowboys have also put together a tough nonconference schedule that includes games against Virginia Tech, Marquette, Wichita State and a loaded field at the Charleston Classic.

“We’re just going to proceed like we normally would, like we don’t have a postseason ban, we don’t have a scholarship reduction, until the appeal is final and we lose it,” Boynton said in a phone interview.

Boynton said he had no idea when a ruling would come because the N.C.A.A. decision-making process is “stalled” because of the coronavirus pandemic. There’s a possibility, he said, Oklahoma State could play its season before knowing the outcome.

“They’re not doing cases right now at all, so when they’re going to resume that, I don’t know,” he said.

In addition to Cunningham, Boynton said, Oklahoma State will retain its other recruits.

“Oh, it’s awesome,” he said. “Cade is a transcendent talent. He could be an N.B.A. guy now. I mean, he’s got real, real ability. Those are the type of guys that can truly elevate your program from being a middle-tier team to being a national contender, so it means a lot.”

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