When former Morgan Park star Josh Cunningham committed and signed with Bradley coming out of high school, it was considered a major recruiting steal.
The reason being was Cunningham, the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s No. 9 ranked player in a loaded Class of 2014 in Illinois, was a high-major prospect heading to the Missouri Valley Conference. In the end, Cunningham chose Bradley over Indiana and plenty of other high majors, including Oklahoma, Minnesota, Iowa State, DePaul and South Carolina.
After deciding to leave Bradley following his freshman season, the athletic 6-7 forward opened his recruitment back up and it has come full circle, this time again choosing not to go the high-major route.
Dayton and coach Archie Miller locked up Cunningham on Thursday, choosing the Atlantic 1o Flyers over Illinois, Mississippi State, South Carolina and several other high-major suitors.
Cunningham has been a player who has tried to wisely choose the correct level for himself, while also looking at what is in front of him position-wise at each school.
At Dayton, Cunningham will have the opportunity to replace Dyshawn Pierre, who will be a graduating four-year starter at the 4-spot when Cunningham becomes eligible in 2015-2016. At Illinois, the runner-up, Cunningham saw a glut of 4-men possibilities in Malcolm Hill, Leron Black and Darius Paul all returning.
Miller, with the help of unheralded assistant Tom Ostrom, lands a hard-nosed 4-man with athleticism and a prowess for rebounding. He was part of a state championship team at Morgan Park as a senior, starring for the Mustangs while also doing plenty of the dirty work for coach Nick Irvin.
Last season as a freshman at Bradley, Cunningham played 30 minutes a game, averaging 7.9 points and 7.5 rebounds a game.
Cunningham, who upped his numbers to 8.7 points and 8.4 rebounds a game in conference play, was the MVC’s second leading rebounder and was named to the MVC All-Freshman Team. His 21 rebounds against Missouri State matched the best single-game total by a Bradley player in over 50 years.
Although he shot just 23 percent from beyond the arc as a freshman (15 of 64 from the three-point line), Cunningham showed in high school an improved ability to step out and knock down perimeter shots.
The idea of nabbing a rebounder the caliber of Cunningham, who brings a toughness and produced the way he did as a freshman in the Missouri Valley, was enticing for any program. It’s especially appealing when a program can sit the player out for a year during his transfer year, allowing him to work on his game and develop physically, while knowing the pluses of having a fifth-year senior down the road.