Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Cunningham's Stock on the Rise; Fisher Busts Stokes' Chops; Big East Roundup
PHILADELPHIA – Dante Cunningham just poured in 31 points to tie his career-high as No. 17 Villanova absolutely hammered No. 20 Syracuse 102-85 before more than 20,000 fans, including Donovan McNabb, here at the Wachovia Center.
(The game story should be up shortly on SNY.tv.)
There can be no doubt that the 6-foot-8 Cunningham has drastically improved his stock and appears headed toward being selected in the NBA Draft. He leads the Wildcats in scoring (16.5 ppg) and rebounding (7.3).
“That’s definitely something that’s in the back of my mind, but right now it’s definitely all Villanova basketball,” he said of the NBA.
“I definitely think [my stock] went up and everything, but honestly right now I haven’t made any conscious thoughts about it.”
Cunningham shot 7-of-8 in the first half as the Cats seized a 53-38 lead against the vaunted Syracuse zone. He’s developed a nifty little mid-range jump shot to add to his repertoire.
“I always could shoot but it wasn’t always[as] consistent as it is now,” Cunningham said. “It was just something this summer that I put a constant effort into. Constant film working on it. We have a whole new system in our gym where we can just watch ourselves shoot, and I did a lot of that this summer.”
FISHER LOOKING FITAnother Villanova player who has improved dramatically from last year is sophomore point guard Corey Fisher, a Bronx native who led Kevin Boyle’s St. Patrick of Elizabeth team to back-to-back New Jersey Tournament of Champions titles.
Fisher finished with 14 points and six assists and drew praise from Nova coach Jay Wright.
At one point in the first half, Fisher stole the ball off a pass from Syracuse big man Rick Jackson and then knifed in for a layup, drawing chants of “Co-rey Fish-er” from the student section.
“Fisher is really working hard to play defense,” Wright said.
“It’s getting him in foul trouble a little bit. But he just brings so much offense off the bench. He’s incredible in the open floor.
“They went man in the second half, but if it would’ve gotten close in the second half and they stayed zone, we would’ve used him more because a penetrator like that is very valuable in the zone.”
Fisher struggled a bit last year as a frosh, but worked hard in the offseason to drop weight and improve his fitness. After ending last year at 208 pounds, he now weighs 191.
“I’m faster, stronger, everything,” he said. “To me I think everything improved. My speed, defense, body.”
A year’s experience in the Big East has also helped mature the Bronx native.
“A year can be a big difference in the Big East,” he said.
BUSTING STOKES’ CHOPSFisher went to St. Patrick and his teammate Corey Stokes of Bayonne, N.J. attended St. Benedict’s.
When the Celtics hammered the Gray Bees, 88-62, last Wednesday at the RAC, Fisher gave it to Stokes.
“We were talking about that game all day,” Fisher said.
“I was joking with him, ‘Let’s take bets,’ but we didn’t take bets. I told him that St. Patrick’s was going to win the game.”
BIG EAST ROUNDUP (Click for links)UCLA hands Notre Dame 7th straight lossNo. 1 UConn holds of Michigan for 11th straightCincinnati downs Georgetown in OTBlair has 32 and 14 as Pitt downs DePaul
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.