There's no need to look at a statistics sheet to determine how many rebounds Syerra Cunningham gets in a game. The 6-foot-1 University of Illinois Springfield senior forward has the marks on her body to prove how hard she works in the paint.
Cunningham is one of the top rebounders in NCAA Division II. She's tied at No. 8 with 11.8 per game. She is the Great Lakes Valley Conference's No. 1 rebounder.
"It gets a little tough underneath the basket," Cunningham said. "I went to a dinner party. I had a dress on and I had a huge bruise. I went to shake someone's hand and they asked what happened. I said, 'I must have got that from a game.' They said, 'What kind of game like rugby?' I said, 'No. I play basketball.'"
Cunningham is chasing several rebounding records. She is on pace to move to the top of the UIS' all-time list. She ranks No. 2 with 591 rebounds.
"She believes she's going to get every rebound," UIS coach Mark Kost said. "That's what great rebounders have, the mentality that every time the ball is shot I'm going to go get it. Then she's blessed with great hands. Strong hands. When she gets a hand on it, it's hers."
Cunningham gives UIS more than a strong rebounding presence. She's second on the team in scoring and averages 12.4 points per game. She's an effective shooter with a 59.5 field goal percentage.
She's posting the best numbers of her college career.
In spite of being a starter in all three of her seasons with UIS, Cunningham is more confident than ever. A lot of it has to do with her fitness level.
"This summer I really went hard at it," Cunningham said. "I was like, I have one season to prove to everybody and this isn't something that is only going to happen for 10 or 11 games. It is going to be all season."
This article appeared in The State Journal-Register on January 4, 2016.
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