After earning an All-Star selection in his first IBL season last year, Jared Cunningham bypassed an overseas offer to take part in training camp with the Idaho Stampede of the NBA D-League. Cunningham was cut before the season started, and was forced to hit the drawing board yet again regarding his professional basketball career.
The 6'9'', 225 pound forward is the league's leading scorer averaging 27.1 points, and ranks fifth in rebounding by grabbing 9.3 boards a game. Cunningham has increased both totals from a season ago, and spoke with RidiculousUpside.com about what's been different so far this year.
"I'm just a lot more hungry and have more confidence in myself. Being cut from the D-League, and not going overseas has motivated me a lot." Cunningham said. As the season progresses for Cunningham in Portland, the 24-year-old will look to capitalize on the unique platform which the IBL presents to it's players.
The International Basketball League is based in Vancouver, Washington and is a professional basketball league which looks to foster international talent during it's spring/summer schedule, while helping players reach the next level in their playing careers. The IBL prepares players for domestic leagues such as the NBA D-League, and also international leagues (Basketball Japan League, Chinese Basketball Association, Basketball Bundesliga, Portuguese Basketball League).
The IBL consists of teams located in the United States and Canada, as well as International Tour teams. It provides players such as Cunningham, with the opportunity to continue developing their game during a perfect period in the professional basketball calendar.
Cunningham was a McDonald's All-American in high school coming out of Oregon, and after a collegiate career that consisted of a junior college stint, a year at Cleveland State, and time in Kentucky at the University of the Cumberlands, the gifted forward played in Canada and overseas in Germany's ProB league.
Cunningham's basketball journey continues to move along, as he's now in his second season for the Portland Chinooks. In 20 games last season, he averaged 20.2 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 30.2 minutes. He led his team to the championship game, but lost in a heartbreaker to the Bellingham Slam. It was the second championship for Bellingham, and Cunningham looks to help Portland win their first IBL title this season.
Even though the league is formed around players looking to increase their stock, Cunningham echoes what many of the players in the league believe. "My goal this season is to win the championship. If we're winning, and have a shot at the title, my play will show itself naturally. I want to avenge what happened last season and that's most important." Cunningham explained.
According to Cunningham, the IBL consists of players who are very familiar with each other, which promotes a high-level of competitiveness. "I think the competition here is tremendous. Players here can do many of the things that players in all the major professional leagues can do. We all know each other, we have a tight little circle because a lot of us have northwest connections." Cunningham added.
For fans, the IBL presents a fantastic opportunity to catch high-level basketball in an intimate setting. The league aims to cater families, and has done an excellent job in bringing impressive talent to gyms across the country. The future is bright for the league and it's players. With the growing popularity of the NBADL, and an increasing amount of players seeking contracts overseas, the IBL has positioned itself perfectly in the overall competitive basketball landscape.
The IBL playoffs will take place July 3rd, 4th, and 5th on the home court of Cunningham's Portland Chinooks. The last two IBL champions have been the host team, and while Cunningham will likely continue his jaw-dropping play, he will also hope to have the opportunity to win a championship in a very familiar setting.