IN THE SPOTLIGHT
You notice his shot.
In fact, you can’t help but notice his shot.
Kevin Cunningham has NBA range.
He’s the Deadeye from Downtown.
His long-distance shooting is exclamation-point good.
And like most top-flight shooters, the Loyola Academy senior can catch fire and hit ’em in bunches.
He can get five-alarm hot — at any time.
Which brings us to one of Cunningham’s unique obsessions: being on time.
Time always is of the essence with Cunningham. Just ask LA senior and fellow captain Pete Mangan.
“We roomed together on basketball trips [with Fundamental U], and he’d set three different alarms to make sure we got up on time,” said Mangan, with a smile. “He doesn’t like to be late.”
“It’s better to be an hour early than a minute late,” Cunningham said.
“I try to be early to everything,” he added. “That’s just me. That’s just who I am.”
Better late than never is not in his phraseology.
For the most part, Cunningham plays basketball likes he’s double-parked. The 6-foot point guard is in constant motion — on both ends of the court.
In a 33-30 loss at St. Rita on Dec. 15, the crafty Cunningham was so active — and cunning — that he made seven deflections in 32 minutes of action. Putting up a stat like that speaks to his all-out hustle — and his inner fire.
“Kevin is a do-everything player for us,” said LA head coach Tom Livatino. “He’s leads us. He scores. He handles the point.
“And he can really guard,” the coach added.
Putting extra weight on his shoulder is just fine. In fact, Cunningham wouldn’t want it any other way.
In a 40-37 victory over Notre Dame on Dec. 12, Cunningham became the man of the hour. Just as the game looked like it might be slipping away from the Ramblers, Cunningham came to rescue by hitting two clutch free throws with 10.8 seconds left to preserve the win.
“We want the ball in his hands at the end of a [tight] game. We want him to dominate the ball,” Livatino said. “He’s the one we want at the free-throw line.”
Pressure? What pressure?
“You can’t doubt yourself in that situation,” said Cunningham, who currently is averaging 12 points, five assists, five deflections, three rebounds and two steals per game. “I wanted to be the one who got fouled. I wanted to be the one who went to the line.”
“Ramar [Evans] was that guy last year,” Cunningham added. “I like having that role this year.”
Cunningham, who has made 18 three-pointers in LA’s first eight games this season, was the second-leading scorer on last year’s 22-9 squad, when he made 71 threes and tallied 284 points.
Mike Weinstein hopped on the Cunningham bandwagon early. The founder and head coach of Fundamental U has been enamored by Cunningham’s long shot — for a long time.
“He can really shoot it,” said Weinstein, who grouped Cunningham with Mangan on his 17U Black squad. “He gets the ball out quickly, and he can shoot from 30 feet.”
Cunningham was 400-degree-oven-setting hot in a Thanksgiving Tournament game earlier this season. In a 46-41 loss to archrival New Trier, he went far, farther and farthest — nailing three NBA-esque three-pointers from the top of the key — in a four-minute span in the third quarter.
“When he gets in a groove, he’s a lethal weapon,” noted Weinstein.
Cunningham had stretches like that while playing for Fundamental U. The Glenview native wasn’t afraid to dial it up against top-flight competition in the Under Armour Championships in Atlanta and the Bigfoot Hoops Classic in Las Vegas.
“Our 17U Black had a great season, and Kevin played a big part in it. He had a great summer,” said Weinstein. “The kid’s a ‘hooper’.”
Weinstein especially loves Cunningham’s makeup on the court.
“He plays with the right mindset,” said Weinstein. “He’s fearless.
“He never gets too high. Never gets too low. Never complains. Never makes excuse,” the coach added. “He just competes.”
Cunningham is dead serious on game day.
“That’s who he is,” said Mangan. “He’s locked in.
“I’ll talk to him before a game, but I will pick my spots,” the teammate added.
Cunningham, a former soccer and baseball player, felt the pull of basketball at a fairly early age.
“Other sports kept interrupting the one sport that I really liked the most: basketball,” said Cunningham, who used to split time with Joy of the Game hoops and Glenview Blaze baseball during the summer months. “The overlapping got to be too much. I had to make a decision.”
Cunningham also is locked in on playing at the next level. So far, he hasn’t made a decision or commitment.
But no worries. He still has time.
Notable: Loyola (6-2, 0-1 in the Chicago Catholic League) had its four-game win streak snapped on Dec. 15, when the Ramblers fell to host St. Rita 33-30. Kevin Cunningham and junior Connor Barrett tallied 14 points each, while senior Pete Mangan had six rebounds, four steals and two assists. … In the 40-37 win over visiting Notre Dame on Dec. 12, Cunningham led the way with 15 points, four rebounds and two assists. The other stat leaders were Mangan (10 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals) and Barrett (10 points).