When we discuss the 2016-17 Dayton Flyers season, in regards to Josh Cunningham, this video is pretty much all you need to remember. He started the season doing good basketball things, bent his ankle in half (decided not to apply for a medical redshirt that would ensure he would graduate old as shit), then came back late in the season to do some fairly-good-but-never-great basketball things. The shining moment being the fade away jumper below to beat the shot clock and extend the UD lead in the eventual clinching of the A10 title against VCU. This was the entire scope of Cunningham’s season.
— David Jablonski (@DavidPJablonski) March 2, 2017
Luckily (and supporting optimism) Josh recently told the DDN he was operating at about 75% after returning from his injury, frankly something to be expected. For whatever this is worth (and it isn’t much) here is what Josh did pre-and-post injury last year:
BEFORE: FG 10-12, FT 5-5, 9 boards and 25 points – two games, Alabama and Austin Peay
AFTER: FG 15-30, FT 14-19, 23 boards and 44 points – eight games (URI game doesn’t count – he played 2 minutes)
It’s hard to take anything away from these stats regarding averages, simply because the sample size is so distorted. What I will take away is the shot selection and free-throw shooting. If there is any silver lining to the jumbled season that was the last year for Josh, you can count on him picking good spots for his looks at the hoop, and being a solid free throw shooter. Other than that, you’re projecting personal opinion. So with that in mind, I asked as many readers as I could to give me one word to describe Josh. The results are below:
While some readers simply could not separate Josh’s name being synonymous with the sport of basketball that he plays, the results really speak for themselves. What UD has right now in Josh Cunningham is a big guy oozing with potential, and the upside of being an absolute monster down low in the post. What we do not have is a guy UD can fully trust to carry the load offensively on this day of our Lord in 2017. And that brings us to the real issue at play. With the exit of Charles Cooke (and Scoochie on most nights), UD is completely devoid of any player on the roster who is automatic for double digits every evening on the score sheet. Josh Cunningham NEEDS to be that person.
Last season, we saw Xeyrius go from raw underclassman to a program leader. This year, Josh will need to do the same thing – not just for this season, but for the next as well. You can put a captain’s C on any old jamoke, but it’s the play on the court that makes the Captain’s distinction earned. Many of the questions surrounding this team involve the offense, and a lot of that burden can be extinguished with nightly contributions from #0, primarily because defenses will inherently need to give more attention to the big boys, opening space for the mostly unpredictable guard play we have coming down the pike.
Since I have the luxury of writing this article after the exhibition, I can report that Josh Cunningham treated a division two squad with the amount of respect I would like him to give to a division two squad: none. He went 10-13 from the field in just 17 minutes, finishing the contest with 22 points and 9 rebounds. That’s exactly how Josh SHOULD look against a division two opponent, make no mistake about it. An exhibition game is just as much a punching bag for the experienced guys as it is a chance for young guys to get valuable minutes. Josh treated Ohio Dominican as such. The only thing I ever want to take away from an exhibition tune up is that UD made them cozy in the locker rooms, gave them a thorough shellacking, and showed them the door right back out onto Edwin C Moses Blvd.
All of this is to say that what you should expect from the captain of the 2017-18 Dayton Flyers is to turn in these types of efforts on most nights, with very few off games, for no other reason than me not knowing where the offense is going to coming from on those off nights. Going into this year, the only thing you could bank on was that Josh and X would get the start down low. Considering they turned in 24 boards and 25 points collectively, I would say that assumption was more than fair given what we’ve seen to this point.
I haven’t been particularly bullish in any of these columns as to what I expect from each player, but that can stop with this post right here. Simply put, if UD does not get production from Cunningham nightly, it could be a VERY long season. Luckily, I don’t think that’s something the Flyer Faithful will have to worry much about.
Stay LOWD friends, Friday night will be here before you know it. I’ll have some content from the Ball State perspective before my pregame beer at Kramers, promise.