As Cunningham’s scoring average spiked and opposing defenses began devoting more attention to stopping him, the first-year coach changed his directive:
“I said, ‘Look, I don’t care about points,’ Dublin recalled this week. “‘Can you impact the team in other ways? Let’s challenge you to do what’s hard to do. Let’s see if you can fill up all the other categories.’”
Over the past four games, Cunningham has showcased the results of that revised mind-set. The 6-foot-1 guard who transferred from Paul VI has averaged 15.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and 7.8 assists in that time, including a pair of triple-doubles. On Thursday, he finished with 24 points, seven rebounds and five assists as the 20th-ranked Tigers knocked off Suitland, 83-72, to clinch the No. 2 seed in the Maryland 4A South playoffs behind No. 8 Eleanor Roosevelt.
“He’s taking more pride in what he needs to do for us to be successful,” said Dublin, whose team has won 17 of its past 19 games. “He understands he can’t have any bad games.”
Those performances have created plenty of buzz among Prince George’s County coaches, but Dublin said he’s still waiting for the interest from college recruiters to pick up. Cunningham was forced to basically start over on the recruiting front after playing sparingly during his sophomore season for the Panthers.
The guard had played on the AAU circuit with Team Takeover but left that program last year and spent most of the summer working out on his own. This will be an important AAU season for Cunningham, and Dublin said the player is still deciding which team he will represent.
“I know he’s not too worried about it,” Dublin said. “I’m sure the more games we win and the further we advance in the playoffs, the more [recruiters will] come out.”
Senior Charles Ekeanyanwu has also rounded into form, giving the Tigers a formidable back court. The 6-foot-1 guard scored 34 points in a win over Wise last week and posted 24 points and 11 rebounds in Tuesday’s victory over High Point.
Dublin said Ekeanyanwu (16.8 ppg) has received interest from a handful of low Division I and Division II programs, including Siena and Bowie State. The coach added that the guard has helped himself in the classroom with a 3.85 core grade point average and a qualifying SAT score that he earned on his first try.
“He’s ready,” Dublin said. “All he needs to do now is find a place to sign.”
DuVal’s highest ceiling prospect might be sophomore Edward Polite. At 6-foot-4 and still growing, the forward has averaged 8.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Dublin said several high Division I schools, including Cincinnati and South Florida, have called to ask about Polite.