Jared Cunningham Should Stay Put

Jared CunninghamThere’s a lot of buzz going around right now about Jared Cunningham potentially leaving early for the NBA.

Bad move.

Let’s rewind to the last time an Oregon State player left early. Can anyone remember who that might be?

Corey Benjamin.

Benjamin was phenomenal during his two seasons in Corvallis. At 6-6, he had the body of an NBA swingman.  That’s why he was drafted in the first round by the Chicago Bulls. His last pro game? That came in 2008 with the prestigious Daegu Orions.

Benjamin wasn’t ready for the big time.

Cunningham shouldn’t be either.

Another year in Corvallis almost has to increase his draft stock. Sure he’s got the body of an NBA point guard. He’s 6-4 and 194 pounds. He can get to the rim and Beaver fans know how athletic he is. He’s not big enough to play shooting guard, leaving him as a point guard in the NBA or a dreaded tweener. So far, he’s not good enough as a point guard to expect to be successful in the NBA.

He has drawn a lot of comparisons to another 6-4 OSU point guard from Oakland: Gary Payton. But even Payton doesn’t think Cunningham should make the leap just yet. “I think he has to work on passing, dribbling the ball and I think his outside shot has to be a little better than what it is,” Payton said in a recent article written by The Oregonian’s John Hunt. The article also says Cunningham and Payton plan to work together in the offseason.

This will certainly help Cunningham’s game and his NBA prospects. It should also help Oregon State have a better season in 2012-13. Another year for Cunningham to work on his ball distribution and game management will be huge for him. That way he doesn’t flame out after three seasons in the NBA like Benjamin did.

It didn’t look like that was the path Benjamin would take. He filled the highlight reels with exciting plays and powerful dunks. In college, Benjamin had better numbers than Cunningham.

Benjamin: 19.8 points per game, 53.9 FG%, 2.2 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 1.8 steals.

Cunningham: 18.0 points per game, 45.3 FG%, 2.8 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 2.8 steals.

Benjamin leaving signified the end of an era that never materialized. When he arrived on campus in 1997 along with Carson Cunningham and John-Blair Bickerstaff, there was hopes the program would be turned around. This year, Cunningham has helped the Beavers head in the right direction. They still aren’t where they’d like to be overall, but he can help take them there.

That is as long as he sticks it out for another year.

About Arran Gimba