RIVERSIDE, Calif.—When Larry Cunningham found out a few months ago via phone that he would be a 2018 UC Riverside Athletics Hall of Fame inductee, his first reaction was an unusual one.
"I thought someone was prank calling me," Cunningham said with a laugh. "I had no idea. I wasn't expecting it. As they continued talking, I realized it was the truth. I was just so honored."
Cunningham, who played basketball for the Highlanders from 2004-08, is still the program's all-time leading scorer, with 1,502 points.
Cunningham continues to keep tabs on the basketball program, often checking in with friend and men's associate head basketball coach Justin Bell. He'll be at homecoming this weekend with former teammates.
During practices and in other parts of the athletic department, Cunningham remembers seeing pictures of former UCR athletes who had been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Along with Cunningham, Melissa Sanchez (softball), David Finley (baseball), Fred Morawczski (football), and the 1982 baseball team will receive the highest honors during the induction ceremony on Nov. 16 at the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa in downtown Riverside.
"I can't fully grasp today or 20 years from now what this means," Cunningham said. "I wanted to leave a legacy and I still feel that way. I'm not playing or a part of the staff, but my heart is still with UCR."
Cunningham averaged more than 10 points per game in each of his four seasons and scored an average of 16.3 points per game during his senior year.
One of his most memorable games came as a redshirt freshman in 2005 against UC Irvine, when he stepped up after senior leader Vili Morton was unable to play due to injury. He scored a season-high 29 points, including 15 straight in the first half, to help the Highlanders get their first Big West win of the season.
"I might shed a tear," Cunningham said of the ceremony. "My family will be there. I will have high emotions. I'll remember all those times that people don't think of. All of those times lifting weights, running on the track, study hall. That's what I'll be thinking of. "