By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 26, 2009
The first round of last night's NBA draft had the potential to include multiple players with Washington connections, although only Clinton native Ty Lawson heard his name among the first 30 players. But once NBA Commissioner David Stern handed the reins to deputy commissioner Adam Silver in the second round, local players quickly came off the board.
The first was Villanova forward Dante Cunningham, a Silver Spring native who attended Potomac High. Cunningham was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers with the 33rd overall selection. Georgetown forward DaJuan Summers was selected by the Detroit Pistons two picks later. Summers was immediately followed by Pittsburgh swingman Sam Young, a Clinton native who attended Friendly High before finishing his prep career at Hargrave Military Academy. Young went to the Memphis Grizzlies with the 36th overall pick.
Cunningham watched the draft from the home of his AAU coach, Curtis Malone of D.C. Assault. Cunningham's agent, Joel Bell, clued Cunningham a few minutes prior to the pick that the Trail Blazers planned on taking Cunningham, but the player remained quiet. When his name was called, he turned to Malone and college teammate and friend Dwayne Anderson in celebration.
"Words can't describe it, when you see my name come up," Cunningham said. "It was one of the places that I decided was the better fit for me."
When Cunningham first arrived at Villanova from Potomac High, he did not appear a likely candidate to one day be selected in the NBA draft. But the Silver Spring native is an example of the benefits of the seldom-celebrated four-year player in college. He improved in each season at Villanova, finishing his senior year with 16.1 points, 7.5 rebounds while winning the Big East's most improved player award and leading the Wildcats to their first Final Four since 1985.
"It was only something in the back of my mind," Cunningham said of NBA possibilities when he first arrived at Villanova. "I decided to make it happen."
Young followed a similar career arc. A four-year player, Young averaged 19.2 points and 6.3 rebounds during his final season at Pittsburgh and was one of the most productive players in the nation. Young made more than 50 percent of his shots in three of his four years with the Panthers. He slipped lower than anticipated, but joins a young team where his experience might help him reach the court early.
Summers started at Georgetown, but left following a junior season in which the Hoyas failed to match preseason expectations. He finished his final year averaging 13.6 points and 4.1 rebounds and offers a versatile arsenal that put him in discussions as a first-round pick.
Cunningham watched the announcement of Blake Griffin as the top overall pick through his own name, not just waiting to learn his fate but to also keep tabs of friends. He needed to watch for more than three hours until the second round for those with local connections -- but for those who heard their names, it was well worth the wait.
"I watched the whole thing," Cunningham said. "It was good for everybody."