Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Brock Cunningham embraces tough-guy role for Longhorns

Jack Myer

Editor's Note: This story first appeared in The Daily Texan's March 2 print edition.

Redshirt sophomore forward Brock Cunningham does not show up on the stat sheet most nights, but his grit and toughness on the court is evident to anyone watching the game.

Cunningham is perhaps the best example of a player who knows his role on an experienced team with other players who receive far more attention than himself. The 6-foot-5-inch, smack-talking forward consistently puts his body on the line to grab rebounds or poke at any loose ball he can navigate to — important contributions that are often overlooked.

“I love the role that (head) coach (Shaka) Smart has set out for me, and it's something that I can do really well,” Cunningham said. “The stuff behind the scenes is where I really thrive.”

The local product from Westlake High School in Austin, Texas has become a fan favorite due to his infectious energy and enthusiasm for making a tough play whenever needed. His hustle on the court has made him popular with teammates as well.

“He’s phenomenal,” sophomore forward Kai Jones said. “He’s like a cowboy out there. He’s just wild. I love the way he plays.”

The forward’s style of play is often compared to the likes of seven-time NBA rebounding champion Dennis Rodman or Golden State forward Draymond Green, NBA players who became notorious for their efforts in chasing down rebounds and loose balls. Cunningham said he modeled his game after them growing up.

“Getting position and following the ball in the air is everything for me because I can't jump up to 12 feet,” Cunningham said. “I've got to go and pick (the ball) when it's on the ground or poke it out of people's hands.” 

However, things haven't always been rosy for Cunningham, who struggled to find playing time early in his Texas career. According to Smart, there was a time when Cunningham would get upset about his lack of playing time, but the relationship between coach and player has since come a long way. 

“I really think we now have a shared common understanding of wanting the same thing,” Smart said. “I’m just so glad that he’s part of our team, because he is really, really unique.”

The redshirt sophomore said he learned a lot about himself throughout the process of settling into his role for Texas.

“I felt like I needed to work through freshman and sophomore year and not run away from the challenge,” Cunningham said. “I'm unbelievably grateful that I did stay and work through those tough times … It’s given me a lot of confidence to do anything outside of basketball.”

His work has paid off. Cunningham has seen more consistent playing time this season, averaging 16.9 minutes per game. His stat line rarely jumps off the page, but Cunningham says he prefers the behind-the-scenes grit anyway.

“It doesn't bother me,” Cunningham said. “I'm happy with four loose balls, two fouls and maybe a charge here and there. That's a great game in my eyes.”

That extra effort in doing the dirty work for the Longhorns can often be the difference between victory and defeat. Smart stressed how important Cunningham is to the success of the Longhorns.

“I'm proud of Brock for hanging in there,” Smart said. “As long as he plays in Texas moving forward — because of the trust that he's gained and the way that he's played — he's always going to have a pivotal role on this team.”

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About the Contributor
Matthew Boncosky, Sports Editor
Matthew is a senior studying journalism and previously covered football, men’s basketball, volleyball and swimming and diving. He is the "undisputed" ping pong champion of the basement.
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Brock Cunningham embraces tough-guy role for Longhorns