The next Gary Payton?
For many Beaver fans, Jared Cunningham has been a bright spot in more than one way for the Oregon State basketball program. For starters Cunningham ushered in the Craig Robinson era, which has consisted of a steal happy defense, and highlight reel athleticism.
The comparisons to Gary Payton are attributed constantly, and it takes little research to see why these are often brought up.
Both made the journey to Corvallis by way of Oakland, California, and each stood out at their respective high schools as prolific, quick reflex guards.
Where Payton’s career has differed was his success at leading the Beavers to three NCAA tournament births, in the early ’90s, whereas Cunningham only has a CBI tournament birth to place his hat on. That’s not to say that Cunningham hasn’t created his own legacy as a member of the Oregon State Beavers basketball team.
Pushing the Payton comparisons aside, Jared Cunningham is seen as more than just the second coming of The Glove, but has put all of Corvallis on his back as he hopes to revive a once dominant basketball program.
Cunningham played his high school ball at San Leandro High School (San Leandro, Ca.), lettered for four years, and effectively dominated his high school league during his Junior and Senior seasons.
Ranked the 14th best guard, and 76th best player, out of high school (by Rivals.com), Cunningham was one of the Bay Area’s hottest commodities.
Mired in the Jay John era of recruiting, Cunningham’s true worth was unable to fully unleash itself with the likes of Calvin Haynes, Lathen Wallace, and Omari Johnson taking the bulk of the minutes for OSU basketball in the ’09-10 season.
That’s not to say Cunningham would’ve put up the numbers he did in his sophomore year, but one can wonder what he would’ve done with more than just 19 minutes a game.
Cunningham’s impact on the team really began to shine in his sophomore season, where he averaged just shy of 30 minutes a game, putting up 14 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and nearly 3 steals a contest.
Aside from the impressive numbers, Cunningham was setting school records for steals by a sophomore (85), most free throws in a game without a miss (15), and most consecutive made free throws (34).
Jared’s school record for steals by a sophomore saw him eclipsing, who else, Gary Payton by 13 steals. Payton, in the ’87-88 season, thieved 72 balls, whereas Cunningham swiped 85, linking him with the “next Gary Payton” moniker.
Cunningham’s true nickname, however, came after he set YouTube on fire with a monster put back jam against the University of Arizona on Jan. 2nd, 2011.
Dubbed the “Kiss the Sky” dunk due to the reaction the announcer had after the jam (seriously, YouTube the dunk, it’s insane), Cunningham’s slam saw everybody dub him “Flight” for his high-flying athleticism.
After a less than successful ’10-11 campaign for the OSU Beavers, despite Jared’s top ten worthy skills, Cunningham’s play this year has shown he wants to accomplish more than just viral supremacy.
Logging just over 34 minutes a game, Jared is putting up career bests, nearly, across the board.
Averaging 18 points, just under 4 rebounds, 2.6 assists and just under 3 steals a game, Cunningham is once again showing he’s one of the best basketball players to ever grace Ralph Miller court.
However, with the Beavers losing 4 straight, and sporting a less than impressive 5-10 conference record, Jared can’t be happy with just putting up big numbers.
Last year, for instance, Cunningham was heard guaranteeing an NCAA tournament birth on campus radio station KBVR-FM’s sports talk show The Redzone.
That competitive spirit will hopefully shine during the PAC-12 tournament, coming up on March 7th in Los Angeles, California.
Cunningham, and the rest of the Beaver’s basketball team, are hoping to get hot at the right time and string together some wins to bring home a PAC-12 tournament title, and a trip to the big dance.
Player Bio: Jared Cunningham (Junior Guard)
Weight: 194 lbs.
Hometown: Oakland, California
Games Played – 89
Games Started – 75
Points per game – 12.7
Rebounds per game – 2.9
Assists per game – 1.8
Steals per game – 2.2
OSU school records:
Most steals by a sophomore – 85
Most FTs in a game without a miss – 15
Most consecutive made FTs – 34 (tie, Vince Fritz, 1967)