The Bradley Braves may be a mid-major program, but they scored a big recruit in their class of 2014 on Tuesday as 4-star forward Josh Cunningham announced his commitment to the school.
Terrence Payne of CollegeBasketballTalk.com reported the news, and Jeff Borzello of CBSSports.com pointed out the marquee basketball powerhouses Cunningham passed up to land in Peoria:
CSN Chicago's Scott Phillips alluded to the winning pedigree Cunningham brings with a decorated career to date:
According to 247Sports' composite rankings, Cunningham is the 110th-ranked prospect in the country and the No. 26 small forward.
Cunningham hails from Morgan Park High School in Chicago, so he is staying in his home state as he bids to help turn the Braves around and make them more of a factor.
He expressed excitement about the foundation in place, along with the teammates slated to join him on this year's squad, per High School Cube News' Joe Henricksen:
I felt like I could make a bigger and more significant impact at Bradley. With the players they have returning and coming in, I felt we could do some big things. [...] I went back and forth on the decision, especially after taking each visit. But after each visit and being undecided, it was always Bradley that I came back to at the end. [...]
I have a great relationship with the coaching staff and the players there. I want to play to the best of my abilities, help Bradley get to the next level and get them back to the NCAA Tournament.
A rough 2013-14 campaign saw Bradley post a 12-20 record and a 7-11 mark in the Missouri Valley Conference, which produced undefeated regular-season champion Wichita State. The Braves figure to be a more formidable squad immediately with Cunningham's commitment alone.
The goals Cunningham has set are lofty, but he appears confident that he can achieve them—and in short order. It does help that he has two state titles from high school as winning experience to draw on, but the Shockers will be a formidable foe atop the MVC next season, poised to overcome an early March Madness exit.
Bradley last qualified for the NCAA tournament in 2006, making a Cinderella run to the Sweet 16. Perhaps the Braves can emulate that with Cunningham as the leader, but he'll have to take the reins of the team while developing his own individual game.
At 6'6.5" and 185 pounds, per his 247Sports profile, there's no denying Cunningham's athleticism or explosive leaping ability, but he could stand to add more weight and even advanced moves to his already polished offensive arsenal in order to become a more difficult matchup. With range to shoot beyond the arc and exceptional quickness, Cunningham is going to be tough to guard even as a true freshman.
This past season, the Braves had a rather stagnant offense that struggled to execute, shooting 41.9 percent as a team and averaging 63.6 points per contest. Cunningham brings much needed excitement as someone who can create his own shot and make impact plays above the rim. That may not translate to an immediate appearance at the Big Dance, but chances are Cunningham can help bring better players to Bradley within the next year and thrive enough to get the Braves back there soon enough.