CHICAGO - Dante Cunningham doesn't know when or whether he'll get selected at next month's NBA draft, but he wants coaches and general managers to know he'll give it all he's got.
"Honestly, I think for me it could be 50-50," Cunningham said about his draft expectations. "It just all depends on teams, where they go, what picks they get."
Cunningham, who helped lead Villanova to this season's NCAA Final Four, isn't quite big enough for a power forward position in the NBA, and his ballhandling is subpar, but he's willing to get his hands dirty and do whatever it takes to win.
The Big East's Most Improved Player of the Year, Cunningham averaged 16.1 points per game and 7.5 rebounds.
"I get better every day that I hit the court," said Cunningham, who is participating in this week's NBA draft combine workouts. "I'm not exactly the tallest; my midrange game is getting better. My ability to guard '1' to '5,' rebounding, do the dirty work, anything to get a win; I'm willing to get that done.
"I feel that my work ethic and my ability to just want to get better is going to allow me to continue to make strides."
Cunningham hopes that an NBA coach will take notice, as his coach at Villanova, Jay Wright, did in his first season with the Wildcats.
"Freshman year, I wanted to play, obviously; I wanted to get on the court," Cunningham said. "I saw myself getting 20 minutes a game by playing defense, getting rebounds, things like that. There's things that the coach will see and say, 'He's committed; he wants to be on the court.'
"As time went along, I got more rebounds, played better defense. I started to add scoring, and over the years, I just got better and better. By the time my senior year came, I was the primary option in the offense and getting it done."
Cunningham envisioned the type of player he would be in the NBA.
"The Ben Wallace type that gets rebounds, plays defense," he said. "On the other hand, I'm the type of player that can pick and pop and stay in the mix with everything that's going on on the court."
Cunningham has a favorite NBA player whom he likes to model his play after.
"My favorite of all time is Kevin Garnett," Cunningham said. "I love his intensity, his work ethic, how he controls his team. Even when he's hurt, you can see him on the sideline yelling and screaming, getting everybody going. I love that about him."
It's a long road to the NBA, and Cunningham is experiencing that now. He has worked out for the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs. He's taking part in the 2-day NBA draft combine.
"This is tremendous, being in the top 52 players invited out here," Cunningham said. "It's a great feeling. It's another step to get closer to your goal."
Cunningham has labored hard each year to improve, and to get to this point in his basketball career. If and when he gets drafted, he likely will continue to do whatever it takes to succeed. *