Cunningham has averaged a team-high 20.1 points per game and nearly recorded a triple-double with 32 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists on Saturday night as the Tigers dropped Reservoir, 82-67, for their sixth straight victory.
“Last year, I was mainly a practice guy,” said Cunningham, who recorded 50 total points in 25 appearances for the Panthers last winter. “I didn’t really get into many games. This year, I get to show my skills on the court. I get to be the go-to guy.”
Cunningham began his high school career playing on the junior varsity squad at Carroll and made the move to Paul VI for his sophomore year, spurred, in part, by the chance to play alongside Stan Robinson, his former teammate at Dr. Ernest Everett Just Middle School in Mitchellville.
Robinson – an Indiana recruit who is playing his senior season at Findlay Prep in Nevada – went on to earn second-team All-Met honors in helping the Panthers to their first WCAC championship and the City Title, while Cunningham’s role decreased as the season progressed.
Cunningham said he had decided by midseason to leave Paul VI but never told anyone at the school until after the team’s unprecedented run had ended so as not to become a distraction.
“It was a good experience,” Cunningham said. “I got to play with those guys every day in practice, and I think it kind of made me more hungry to play better this year.”
On the AAU circuit, Cunningham had played with Team Takeover, but after a quiet high school season, he was relegated from the top team in his age group to a secondary squad to begin the summer and soon left the program. Instead, he passed the time working on his fitness, often working out at the Glenn Dale Community Center.
When Cunningham first began playing with DuVal, first-year coach Lafayette Dublin felt the guard was holding back, at times. As Cunningham has become more comfortable and used to playing about 30 minutes per night, he’s blossomed into a leader for the Tigers (6-2, 3-2 PG 4A).
Cunningham topped the 20-point mark for the first time this season in an 82-64 win over Old Mill on Dec. 15, and has averaged 24.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.8 assists in his past five games.
“Every game I’ve told him to get better, and he has,” Dublin said. “He’s a special kid. I think the area is just beginning to see the kind of talent he has.”