Jared Cunningham receives high praise

Oregon State guard Jared Cunningham might have come down to earth after kissing the sky with the dunk of the year last season, but expectations for the junior remain high.

Just ask Beavers coach Craig Robinson, as MSG.com did recently.

"He has the experience, ability, and drive to be the best player in the Pac-12," Robinson said of junior guard. "He's focused on us winning as a team and he knows the gun is pointed at his head as the leader."

Never before has Robinson coached a player with the athleticism of Cunningham and that is why he offers the highest of praise when describing his game -- especially for a Chicago native.

"He really reminds me of a skinnier, smaller version of Scottie Pippen," Robinson said of Cunningham. "His athleticism and his instincts are off the charts."

Given that Cunningham is drawing comparisons to a Hall of Famer from his coach, it's safe to say that he is in the running for becoming Pac-12 player of the year with a big season.

The 6-foot-4 Cunningham not only led the Beavers averaging 14.2 points per game, but he also was fifth in the nation in steals (2.83 per game). His 85 steals shattered a sophomore steals record set by none other than Gary Payton.

Cunningham will be joined in the backcourt by two other rising guards in sophomore Ahmad Starks and Roberto Nelson, who also has a notable dunk on his résumé and is set to play his first full collegiate season.

So the talent appears to be in place for Robinson, who in his fourth season at Oregon State is still in search of a winning record.

"I'm really comfortable with these guys and their talent level," he told MSG.com. "We feel we needed to catch up with the rest of the league talent wise and now we feel we've done that."