ST. PETERSBURG — Alvin Cunningham appeared to be in the perfect situation. Last year, he transferred from St. Petersburg Catholic to Lakewood to play for his uncle, legendary Spartans coach Dan Wright.
A key contributor in Lakewood’s run to the Class 4A region final, Cunningham figured to have a more prominent role this season with the loss of several starters to graduation.
Instead, Cunningham pulled a switcheroo. He transferred over the summer to Admiral Farragut, his third school in as many seasons.
“(Farragut) is a good school and my mom wanted me to focus on my academics,” said the junior, who carries a 3.2 GPA.
So far, the change has paid dividends. Cunningham, a starter and one of the Blue Jackets’ leading scorers, has been a big factor in helping his new school advance deep into the playoffs. Saturday, Admiral Farragut (15-6) plays at Tampa Prep (24-3) in the Class 2A region finals.
“I didn’t know at the time, but it’s been a good move,” Cunningham said.
Wright understood the decision.
“I wasn’t puzzled or surprised by it,” said Wright, who is retiring at season’s end. “I knew the reason for it. The academic environment wasn’t as strong here as it could have been at the time. We still talk a lot.”
When Wright surpassed his mentor, former Gibbs coach Freddie Dyles, as the county’s all-time wins leader in December, Cunningham congratulated him.
“I know he’s a great coach, and I learned a lot when I was there,” Cunningham said.
At Admiral Farragut, Cunningham was slow to get on the court after a shoulder injury sustained while playing football sidelined him several weeks. He also needed time to jell with his new teammates. The Blue Jackets had two other transfers, Rico Cunningham (Alvin’s cousin) and Max Eaton, who became starters.
“Whenever you have six to eight new guys who have not had much playing time together you’re going to need time to develop,” Admiral Farragut coach Sylvio Brutus said.
The results showed as the Blue Jackets started the season 9-5. Since then, AFA has won six of its past seven, including an upset of Community School of Naples in the region quarterfinals, the first time the Blue Jackets have beaten their nemesis in four seasons.
“We’re starting to play better,” Cunningham said. “We’re confident. I know a lot of people are not going to give us much of a chance to beat Tampa Prep, but we think we can do it.”
Region basketball finals
Class 2A, Tampa Prep (24-3) at Admiral Farragut (15-6), 7 p.m. Saturday
Who’s hot: Admiral Farragut — C Max Eaton (16 points in region semifinals); Tampa Prep — F Devontae Morgan (19 ppg, 7.5 rpg in playoffs)
Class, 5A Chamberlain (24-2) at Gibbs (22-7), 7 p.m. Saturday
Who’s hot: Chamberlain — G Reggie Hart (20 points in region semifinals); Gibbs — G Quincy Ford (24 points in region semifinals)