July 30, 2021

(Reuters) – The Pistons selected Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham with the top pick of the 2021 NBA draft on Thursday, giving Detroit an NBA-ready, dynamic 6-foot-8 point guard.

Cunningham, 19, was named the Big 12 Player of the Year after his season with the Cowboys and joins a young Pistons squad that picked three players in the first round of last year’s draft.

The Texas native said he could not have achieved his dreams without the support of his parents and two-year-old daughter Riley, whom he kissed on the cheek after his name was called by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver at Barclays Center in New York.

“I know my name was the first name called but I didn’t do this by myself. I have a No. 1 pick family,” said an emotional Cunningham.

“She’s my biggest motivation,” he said of Riley. “She’s taught me way more than I could ever teach her, but I think this is a good step for me.”

Cunningham will have his work cut out for him when he joins a Pistons squad that finished last season 20-52 and in last place in the Eastern Conference.

“Detroit, I’m all the way in!” he said.

“Let’s do it!”

Cunningham has drawn comparisons to Hall of Famer and seven-time All-Star Grant Hill, who was selected third overall by the Pistons in 1994 and helped turn the struggling franchise around.

Houston Rockets chose Jalen Green second overall, adding the athletic shooting guard who spent last season in the NBA G-League, and the Cleveland Cavaliers took shot-blocking big man Evan Mobley of USC with the No. 3 pick.

(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Karishma Singh)