Cunningham was an outstanding high school player who had an incredible college season and has dazzled scouts and basketball fans over the past few years. However, well before becoming a star, Cunningham impressed some Dallas Cowboys players.
Cade Cunningham is friends with Jerry Jones’ grandson
Cunningham showed glimpses of his talent at a young age, and Paxton’s dad, Shy Anderson, saw it when the two young men played AAU basketball together.
“Cade always had a smile on his face until he walked into the gym,” Shy said, per The Athletic. “It was business for Cade, even in the third grade. He wanted to be the best basketball player he could be on the court. However, there was something about him, at that age, that wanted to make players around him better, too.”
Thanks to his friendship with Paxton, Cunningham once showed off that talent in front of some NFL players while at Cowboys training camp.
He put on a show in front of Dallas Cowboys players
The Athletic reported that going into their freshman year of high school, Paxton invited Cunningham to help him out at training camp.
While they spent their days working, they went and played basketball one evening and joined some Cowboys players on the court.
Cunningham, of course, put on a show.
“He was a great kid and tall,” former Dallas defensive back Orlando Scandrick said of Cunningham, per The Athletic.
Paxton told The Athletic that during their games with the NFL stars, the 13-year-old Cunningham started hitting jump shots. He also showed off his crossover and step-back.
“Cade was showing his skills off and the players were like, ‘Damn, who is this guy?’” Paxton, who is now a college football player at Texas, said, per The Athletic. “They weren’t expecting much because we were freshmen. He was doing better than all of them. I think (that entire experience) was eye-opening for Cade, being around those pros, the team. He realized he could and wanted to do this at the NBA level.”
Since that moment, Scandrick has continued following Cunningham’s path to basketball stardom.
“(Cade and Paxton) were nice,” Scandrick said, per The Athletic. “I was very impressed with what he went on to do at Oklahoma State and am looking forward to watching him in the NBA.”
Cunningham may have NBA scouts watching him intently right now, but NFL players were unable to look away from his game before anyone even knew who he was.
Cade Cunningham is expected to go No. 1 in the 2021 NBA Draft
Cunningham didn’t disappoint in his lone college campaign at Oklahoma State, scoring 20.1 points per game to go with an average of 6.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists. He was a consensus All-American and the Big 12 Player of the Year.
The Detroit Pistons now have the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, and after general manager Troy Weaver initially said the team would look at all options, Cunningham recently visited with the Pistons and even attended a Detroit Tigers game, per USA Today’s Rookie Wire.
Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer also reported that it’s “highly likely” the Pistons select Cunningham.
Whether he goes to the Pistons or not, though, Shy Anderson thinks that any team will be extremely lucky to have him.
“You’re writing about the next great player,” Anderson said, per The Athletic. “Cade Cunningham is going to be the next Michael Jordan, the next Kobe Bryant. He might not have the skill sets they have, but whoever drafts him is going to have a chance at NBA championships because he will make everyone better.”
He continued: “I’ve been around football players all my life because of my relationship with the Dallas Cowboys, and he’s got the Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith, Deion Sanders heart. It’s not that he has the bravado of those guys, but he has the heart. To win a championship, to lead teams, people look at your heart. Are you someone I can go to war with?”
It sounds like the Jones/Anderson family will have to make some visits to Detroit pretty soon, and not just for any potential Cowboys-Lions games.
Stats courtesy of Sports Reference