Star of the Week: Senior captures Philly Classic MVP

Kaitlin Santanna

 When Dante Cunningham made his Villanova debut four years ago, he was the big man on a team comprised mostly of smaller guards. After last weekend’s Philly Hoop Group Classic, however, Cunningham was a big contributor on his team not for his size but for his performance and leadership on the court.

The senior continued his impressive start to the ’08-’09 season in the Philly Classic. His performances in the Wildcats’ games versus Monmouth, Towson and University of Rhode Island helped lead Villanova to capture the tournament championship. Cunningham put up 50 points and 26 rebounds between the three games. His combination of offensive presence and physical toughness play last weekend made him a standout player worthy of the title of tournament MVP and The Villanovan’s Star of the Week.

Cunningham led the Wildcats with 19 points and seven rebounds in Villanova’s opening matchup in the second week of the tournament against Monmouth. While Cunningham did not post the same number of points in Villanova’s game versus Towson on Nov. 28 – only 12 points and seven rebounds – his back-to-back baskets helped his team take a 45-30 lead in a resurgent second half for the ‘Cats.

The forward impressed in the first three games of the Philly Classic, but it was in Villanova’s final contest versus Rhode Island that Cunningham truly excelled. Cunningham posted 19 points and 12 rebounds in 37 minutes of play, marking his seventh career double-double and second of this season. The Silver Spring, Md., native was named the tournament’s MVP after Villanova’s 78-65 victory over the Rams not only for the numbers he put up, but also for his physical play in the championship game against Rhode Island.

The game versus the Rams was a physical matchup and involved the strength and toughness of Villanova’s defense, as well as the team’s shooting abilities.

Entering his fourth season at Villanova, Cunningham has established himself as an athletic forward and a dependable player for the Wildcats on both ends of the court.

In the ’07-’08 season, he was the only player to start every game and ranked second on the team with an average of 30 minutes per game. Cunningham also led the team in rebounds and was second on the team in scoring, averaging 10.4 points per game. Prior to this season, Cunningham’s other five double-double games came last season when he posted 19 games with at least 10 points and eight games with double-figures. At the end-of-the-season, Cunningham was awarded the Villanova Basketball Award by Head Coach Jay Wright, the team’s top honor.