By LARRY VAUGHT
As soon as I heard the news that Oklahoma State had been hit with a NCAA Tournament ban for next season, I wondered what options star signee Cade Cunningham might have.
You might remember he was one of the nation’s top recruits who picked Oklahoma State — where his brother is now an assistant coach — over Kentucky, Florida, North Carolina and Washington. He’s already been projected as the No. pick in the 2021 NBA draft by some.
If the Cowboys cannot play in the NCAA, then one has to wonder how happy he could be with his college choice now.
I asked Rivals.com basketball recruiting writer Krysten Peek what options he might have. She immediately reminded me of the G-League.
He had a G-League offer before signing with Oklahoma State in November. Since then three other star recruits — Jalen Green, Dashien Nix and Isaiah Todd — have signed with the G-League. Green might make $1 million next year counting endorsements and Cunningham might have a far different view of the league now than he did in November.
But credit Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton for saying all the right things Friday to ESPN’s Jeff Borzello.
“We’re going to have conversations over the next few days, probably weeks, and look at all the options whatever they are: G-League, overseas, other universities, stay at Oklahoma State. At the end of the day whatever his family and he decide is best, I’m going to get in tow with that and I’m going got support it 100 percent,” Boynton said. “I tell you what I told him: I didn’t spend four years recruiting him and telling him how much I cared about him to abandon what’s important for him. I’m not going let any player get screwed in this process. Any player who stays with this program will do it with their eyes wide open.”
The 6-6 Cunningham is a talented guard who can shoot and also distribute the ball. He was a primary UK recruiting target.
What’s ironic here is that the Oklahoma State penalty has nothing to do with Cunningham’s recruiting. Instead, it’s part of the bribery scandal where so many are waiting for the hammer to hit Kansas, LSU and maybe Louisville. Oklahoma is already planning to appeal the Level I violation by former associate head coach Lamont Evans. Evans pleaded guilty to accepting bribes to try and influence recruits.
“The NCAA … agreed that OSU did not benefit in recruiting, commit a recruiting violation, did not pay an ineligible player and did not display a lack of institutional control. As the report documents, OSU cooperated throughout the process, which lasted two years,” Oklahoma State said in a released statement. “The NCAA appears to have made an arbitrary decision in the sanctions applied to the institution for the egregious actions committed by a former coach that did not result in any benefit for the University.”
So could Cunningham now consider Kentucky? Not likely with the recruiting class UK has. Also remember one reason he picked Oklahoma State was to have a chance to play against marquee programs.
But don’t write off the G-League, especially with no one yet knowing for sure what COVID-19 will do the 2020-21 collegiate basketball season and the money Green is going to get next season.