When kids ask Dante Cunningham what it takes to reach the NBA, the answer is always the same.
“That’s it because that’s the answer,” Cunningham said. “It’s really not all that complicated. I wouldn’t be here without hard work. They’re not just words. It’s the truth.”
Cunningham, a former standout at Villanova, scored 10 points for the Minnesota Timberwolves in their blowout win Monday night against the 76ers. Cunningham had played for the Wildcats numerous times on the very same floor, so the surroundings were quite familiar.
“I have great memories of being in this building and also at The Pavilion,” said Cunningham, who was part of Villanova’s 2009 Final Four team. “I’m comfortable here, but I come in with the same mindset that I come in with anywhere I play. It’s hard work. That started at Villanova and will always continue for me.”
While Cunningham is focused solely on the 17-17 Timberwolves, he still keeps a very close eye on his alma mater.
Villanova is 13-1 and ranked eighth in the Associated Press poll.
“They’ve been one of the best stories in college basketball,” Cunningham said. “The coaching staff deserves tons of credit and I know they’re proud of that ranking. They won’t stop working and I can’t wait to see how the season plays out for them.”
Cunningham improved every season he played at Villanova. He started as an unproven freshman and wound up as a solid senior, one of the team leaders and one of the most consistent players in the country.
Now in his fifth NBA season, Cunningham has followed the same path.
“It’s the hard work you put in at Shootaround, at practice, in the weight room, film room that goes a long way,” said Cunningham, who was the 33rd overall pick by Portland in ’09 and has gone on to play for the Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies, Charlotte Bobcats and the Timberwolves. “This is a great fit for me here in Minnesota.