For the next installment of the Q&A series, Pro Insight presents Cade Cunningham, one of the top players in the class of 2020, from Arlington, Texas:
Pro Insight: Describe your game – what are your greatest strengths and biggest areas for improvement?
Cade Cunningham: I think my biggest strength is that I make plays for others. I’m big so I can see over defenses, things like that, so I feel like I’m a good playmaker. And whenever I’m in the clutch I feel like I make shots, so yeah, I feel like I’m a pretty good all-around player. I’m trying to get my jump shot better, especially off the dribble. I think that’s probably the main thing, you know…making better reads, too…I feel like I’ve gotten better with my reads like in pick-and-roll and stuff. But just getting better at taking care of the ball is an area of focus for me…sometimes I take too many risks, so those are probably the main things as far as areas of improvement.
PI: What are your main goals you want to accomplish before your high school career is over?
CC: I want to win Peach Jam – that’s the goal for now in this AAU season. Then after that, in the high school season I want to win the Geico National Championship. We came up a little bit short last year so I think winning it would be big.
PI: Which players have impressed you the most on the EYBL circuit, this spring?
CC: Jonathan Kuminga was incredible against us – he had like 40-plus points, which was really impressive…he’s a big time player, Adam Miller had a big game against us, too. So those are two guys that have really stood out to me.
PI: You have some time to figure it out, but down the line as you prepare to make your college decision, what are some of the top things you’re looking for in a school?
CC: A school that’s going to compete for a national championship the year I get there. Obviously my main goal is to be in the NBA, so a school that’s going to help me develop to get to that point. I want to play for a great coach. I cut my list down to 10 and I feel like all of those coaches are great coaches that would help me get to the next level, so just winning early and helping me develop is the main thing.
PI: Name 3 words that best describe you.
CC: Competitor. Leader. Work-horse.
PI: College or pro, current or former player – do you model your game after anyone?
CC: I watch a ton of LeBron James so I feel like just watching him, I mean he’s the best, so modeling my game after him, you can’t go wrong with that – but there’s a lot of guys…I really look at big guards who run the show and see how they get to their spots and stuff like that, so pretty much all the big guards in the league right now.
PI: After the AAU circuit wraps up, what are you working on? Who are you working with?
CC: I work with my cousin Ashton – he’s trained a bunch of NBA guys and he’s family, so my cousin and then my older brother, Cannen (Cunningham). He and Ashton are my two main trainers…both are in the family. I’m just working on a lot of shooting and making the right reads. You know I feel like if I can really shoot it that would be the biggest addition to my game. I feel like it’d be a lot harder to guard me, so those are the two main things we’ll be focusing on. I work out a ton now. Ever since I came to Montverde, it’s been a wake-up call just knowing how hard you have to work…Coach Boyle has put a lot on me – it’s a lot of hard work.
PI: About what age did it dawn on you that you might have a shot at making the NBA?
CC: My freshman year I thought I was pretty good, but I still didn’t think I’d get to the level I’m at now. Probably after my sophomore year is when I realized…I just saw the work that I was putting in really start to come together – I think that’s when I really realized that I had a shot, so ever since then, I’ve just been trying to work towards that.
PI: When that clicked, how did it change your approach to the game?
CC: I mean if you want to be a pro you have to treat yourself like a pro and train like a pro – so just working out efficiently, and sacrificing a lot of fun time that most regular high school students have, stuff like that. Really dedicating my life to basketball and really just working towards my dreams has been the main thing.
PI: Please explain what Cade Cunningham brings to a team, regardless of the situation – name some things on the court and some things off the court.
CC: I’m a leader – I feel like I’m a great leader. I work hard. I feel like I lead both by example and through my words. I feel like I’m a winner – I’ve won at a lot of different levels. I’m somebody who’s going to compete every day and I’m not afraid of a big stage.
PI: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
CC: The best advice? Probably just ‘treat people how you want to be treated.’ My mom tells me that 24/7, so I feel like just making people feel good about themselves…I mean basketball has been a tool for me…it’s been a vehicle – it’s taken me so many different places, so outside of basketball, just giving back as much as I can and making people feel good is my main thing in life.
PI: What, or who, would you say is your biggest motivation in life?
CC: My biggest motivation is definitely my brother. He’s always been my main basketball coach and my role model off the court. Also, my parents. My dad and mom work so hard every day. My dad wakes up at 4 AM every morning, so just watching them work so hard for me is motivating in itself. Just giving back to them would be like my life goal, really.
PI: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
CC: 10 years from now, I want to have won multiple championships, have made first team All-NBA and have been named the NBA MVP.
PI: At the end of the day, what do you want to be remembered for?
CC: I’d like to be remembered for working hard, being a great leader, winning, and being a good person off the court. Those would be my main things. How I treat people is important to me, as well as being a good teammate in the locker room and everything…that’s just as important as being a great basketball player.