Here is the final set of the Senior Farewell series. (For previous entries, please go to the bottom of this post...)
It pays tribute to Dante Cunningham, whom, in all goes right, will be playing for the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers next season. In June, Cunningham was drafted by Portland, with the third selection of the second round, of the NBA draft. His ultimate draft position was considerably higher, than any draft analysts anticipated.
So let's look back at how Cunningham's Villanova tenure began...
Dante Cunningham - Arrival and Freshman Year at Villanova - 2005-06 Season
I don't cover recruiting extensively. But the distinct impression that I've received, from researching it, is that Cunningham turned out to be a far better player, than recruiting analysts projected. He was not a McDonald's All-American, for example, like Scottie Reynolds, nor was he a particularly heralded recruit.
The 2005-06 Villanova media guide had this to say about Cunningham:
A superior leaper who brings multiple athletic skills to the frontcourt... Combines a solid face-up game with low-post moves... An excellent shot blocker who can also fill the lane on the break.A native of Silver Spring, Maryland, Cunningham graduated from Potomac High School, where he played for coach Rico Reed, at which he excelled... once more, the media guide:
Averaged 20 points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots per game in leading Potomac to perfect (27-0) season... Named Washington Post Metropolitan Player of the Year... Previously played at St. John's H.S. in Washington, DC, where he was a teammate of Dwayne Anderson's... Averaged 10 points and 7.5 rebounds per game as a junior...And Jay Wright had this to say about Cunningham:
"Dante is a warrior who runs the floor extremely well, is a good rebounder and is an extremely skilled offensive player."Although widely acknowledged for his considerable talent, Cunningham was rarely in the starting lineup, as a freshman - he made four starts, although he appeared in all 33 games. The main reason was the fact that the 2005-06 team was the best of Jay Wright's tenure, featuring future NBA players Allan Ray, Randy Foye, and Kyle Lowry, among others.
The 2005-06 team had an extraordinarily successful season, garnering a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament and reaching the Elite Eight, the first time Villanova had done so in nearly two decades (the last appearance had been in 1988, 18 years earlier). With such a talent-laden Wildcats squad, Cunningham, along with fellow freshman Shane Clark, were often used as defensive specialists.
Which is not to say that Cunningham didn't play a key role, off the bench...
- Named Big Five Rookie of the Year.
- Averaged 19.1 minutes/game, a significant amount of playing time for a freshman, on an outstanding team. Perhaps more revealing, however, was that his minimum number of minutes for any game was 10 - against Florida, in the Elite Eight loss.
- His scoring and rebounding averages were modest, but in the context of 19.1/minutes a game on a team with a multitude of scoring options - they're not bad - 2.2 points and 4.0 rebounds a contest.
- Blocked 19 shots and had 27 steals.
- The only real area where he needed to improve was at the foul line. He went to the line only 33 times, all season (one per game), and made just 13 of his attempts, a dreadful 39.4%.
In assessing his freshman season, the 2008-09 Villanova media guide cited Cunningham's first appearance in Big East play, recording that Cunningham had-
Authored his best game as a Wildcat in his Big East debut, scoring eight points and grabbing six rebounds in a 76-67 win at Louisville on Jan. 5...However, his most memorable game as a freshman came, as the media guide puts it:
His layup off an in-bounds feed with 3.0 seconds left helped lift VU to a 74-72 win over Cincinnati on Feb. 23... He ended that night with four points and six rebounds in a career-high 28 minutes...Cunningham had set a then-career high in minutes against St. Joseph's, two weeks earlier, logging 26 minutes in the Wildcats' 71-58 victory over the Hawks.
Next up, of course - Cunningham's sophomore year of 2006-07...
Of course, check back for the latest posts in the Senior Farewell series, in which I'll be looking back at the Villanova tenure of this final departing Wildcat, Dante Cunningham. The Dwayne Anderson, Frank Tchuisi, and Shane Clark series are now completed...
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