Cunningham joins hoops family

Courtney Scrib

When it comes to choosing a college, the most decisive factor is not something that can be seen, heard or sometimes even explained.

As is the case for the majority of prospective students, it was a feeling that led 6-foot-8-inch (and growing) power forward Dante Cunningham, to choose Villanova and make a verbal commitment to men’s head basketball coach Jay Wright on Oct. 5, 2004.

“Everyone made me feel really comfortable,” Cunningham, a senior at St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C., said. “The players and coaches already made me feel like I was a part of the team. I just felt like this was the place I should be all along.”

As a junior, Cunningham averaged 10 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.

However, it was not until after an impressive showing this past spring and summer in the AAU league that recruiters began to take greater notice of the Maryland native.

Besides Villanova, other schools pursuing Cunningham, who is ranked as the 88th best senior in the country by “Young Prep Stars Recruiting” magazine, included Maryland, Pittsburgh and UNC-Charlotte.

Ultimately, the decision came down to Villanova and UNC-Charlotte.

In addition to being attracted to Villanova’s central location and the idea of playing in the Big East conference, Cunningham also valued Coach Wright’s sincerity and ability to create a family atmosphere.

“Whenever Coach Wright visited me, he always talked about family and how that was a big part of Villanova,” Cunningham said. “Then when I came to visit, he made [what he was saying] true. Coach didn’t just talk. He walked the talk.”

By choosing Villanova, Cunningham becomes the second St. John’s player to commit to the Wildcats in the last year.

His former teammate, 6-foot-6-inch guard Dwayne Anderson, who transferred to prep school this year, also verbally committed last fall. However, the actual signing period does not begin until next month.

Now that his decision has been made, Cunningham hopes to be able to concentrate on his senior year and improve his statistics this season, particularly on the offensive side.

He also is already looking ahead and setting goals for his college basketball career with the Wildcats.

“Hopefully, I can become more of a perimeter player and expand my outside game,” Cunningham, who is considering majoring in Criminal Justice, said. “I’m really ready to play.”

As long as he feels ready for Villanova, Villanova is more than ready for Dante Cunningham.