Nov. 5, 2009
Santa Clara will open its 2009-10 season Friday night with a 7 pm exhibition vs. Notre Dame du Namur in the Leavey Center. The Broncos welcome five freshmen this season, including Chris Cunningham, a 6-9 forward from Diamond Bar, Calif. Below Cunningham talks about why he might not sleep tonight, what movies he enjoys and why, and why he loves his mom so much.
Get to know Chris Cunningham (CC)!
SCU: How did you end up at Santa Clara?
CC: I ended up coming to Santa Clara because of a relationship I had with Coach Keating since the eighth grade. I was at a UCLA basketball camp, met him there and from there I just got to know him through the years. I came here because I felt he could do the most for me in pursuing a great college career.
Coach Keating has always been very optimistic and always believed in me no matter how I was playing or the circumstances. He has always been very high on my family and my life.
SCU: What have you learned from Coach Keating in the time you have gotten to know him?
CC: You always have to confident in yourself and personally, no matter what mistakes you make, he will always be by your side and have your back.
SCU: That must be a good feeling as a freshman.
CC: Yes definitely a good feeling. I have a family-like support coming from all the coaches here at Santa Clara.
SCU: So, Santa Clara plays its first game tomorrow night. How excited are you?
CC: (big smile). It's a crazy kind of surreal feeling that we were watching game film of a team we are getting ready to play today after practice. It's a crazy feeling knowing my college career is about to begin.
SCU: Has the season come quick all of the sudden - even though you came here in July?
CC: I feel like it's come quick, but in a more grand scheme of things. Since I was a little kid - dreaming of playing college basketball and knowing tomorrow is the beginning.
SCU: Think you'll be able to sleep tonight?
CC: No, probably not. (smiling). I will shoot free throws, stretch - to make sure I am ready.
SCU: What have you learned in practice?
CC: I have learned that you have to play hard, learn from your mistakes and do your best not to repeat them.
SCU: What you working on in the preseason individually?
CC: Individually I am working on my face-up game. I want to take people work off the dribble. I want to shoot jump hooks, bank shots and basically expand my game. I am trying to become a complete player.
SCU: Being on a team with nine underclassmen, you are obviously all learning from each other every day. Who are you learning from?
CC: All of us - even though we are young - we have our own individual skills and we help each other out. We take a little bit of everything from each other and bring it to our own games.
I learned from Marc that I really need to be able to face up and shoot the ball. And if doing that makes you very difficult to guard; and if you can bang inside and be able to shoot outside. If you can shoot off the dribble.
SCU: What is something someone has learned form you?
CC: If I had to speak from my teammates, I'd say you have to learn to play physical. Knowing you are going to get hit and playing through getting hit.
SCU: Are you surprised with how physical practice is?
CC: At practice we play pretty hard - we compete pretty hard against each other. In a game things should come a lot easier because we play so physically in practice.
SCU: So many of you were here starting in July. Spending time together in the weight room, bonding in the open gym sessions and meals, etc. Has that helped your team in the early going?
CC: We are one of the closest teams I have been on. Everyone really likes each other and we genuinely care about each other. It's a really good feeling. For me, coming from playing with teams that had bad chemistry, it just compounded the mistakes and things not going well in the games added so much more. But when you play with people who support you - you can shake it off and keep going and make the next play - knowing they are there to build you up and help you.
SCU: OK. Let's switch gears. What is your favorite movie? Can you give us a mini-review?
CC: I have a few.
The Green Mile: I liked it because the theme had a spiritual influence on the movie and the life lesson learned was enlightening.
Remember the Titans: The perfect team overcoming adversity.
Training Day: Personally the alter-ego of a lifestyle that you dream about living. A hard-core gangster type of movie.
300: It's the ultimate warrior movie.
SCU: Pretty good analysis. What's your favorite book?
CC: 48 Laws of Power. It's a self-help book to help you attain power. It gives you wise ways to live your life to achieve success. It's kind of ruthless, but it's a good book. It's almost like `get what you want at all costs, no matter what that means'. Taking advantage of the situation no matter who is in the way.
SCU: Wow. Interesting reading. What was your favorite book growing up?
CC: The Big O. Oscar Robinson's book.
SCU: If you had a day to do anything off the court, anywhere in the world, what would you do?
CC: I would go to Santorini Greece and bring my whole family: loved ones, friends, etc. and have the biggest party on the island. A few years ago I saw it on TV and I looked it up and I thought `that's where I want to go on my honeymoon'. It's perfect.
SCU: You are really close with your mom, Jacky Cunningham. Talk a little about her.
CC: My mom is my rock. She is my foundation, my inspiration. She always stays honest with me and has my best interests at heart. And I love her unconditionally. Our relationships is unmatched by anything else in my life. She will be at the game tomorrow - my whole family will be here.
SCU: Will she be wearing a t-shirt with a picture of you on it or carrying a sign saying `Go Chris!'?
CC: My mom is the type of mom that she wouldn't do anything like that unless she had my approval (laughs). She isn't the type to bring attention to herself, she just naturally goes with the flow. If I wanted her to make 10 signs she would hold them all up if she could.
SCU: OK, you've talked about your dream place to visit. Obviously you'd like to play in the NBA in the future. But after that, when you have finished your Santa Clara degree, what would you like to do?
CC: I just want to be happy doing whatever I chose to do - no matter what it is. I would like to do something that would help the world. Possibly through travel to third-world countries and doing what I can as far as donations and food-wise - taking care of them. I want to have an impact on them in the world besides basketball.