Carson Cunningham has never hid his love of history and sports.
He has a Ph.D in the subject and considers Mark Twain as his favorite author. One of his favorite novels is Twain's "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."
Dr. Cunningham, a 1996 Andrean grad and current Carroll College (Mont.) men's basketball coach is also an author as he just published his fourth book in which he takes history and moves it forward. This time, he does with his favorite author and favorite book.
Instead of being set along the Mississippi River, "21st Century Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" is set on Lake Michigan on the Dunes National Lakeshore.
"Huck Finn defrosts after being in a glacier and he wakes up almost 200 years later," Cunningham said. "Just the differences, cultural and everything is a shock to him."
He said he sort of got the inspiration from Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court," where an engineer is transported back in time and fools the people into thinking he is a magician.
"This is just the opposite," Cunningham said. "I reversed what Twain did and Huck Finn has to live in our modern world, but without knowing about the conveniences we have. ... TV to him is like a magic box."
Huck Finn joins a group of neighborhood kids on a bad football team and with him, the team gets better. Finn tries to live the life he did in the Hannibal, Mo., but trying to live in hiding in the Indiana Dunes is hard wit the tourists and beachgoers. Across the lake are the skyscrapers of Chicago and to his left is the industrial shoreline of the South Side and Northwest Indiana.
"It is really a 21st century culture shock for him," Cunningham said. "Think about it if we were in that situation. Can you imagine if you came back a century later and everything would be a shock to you."
Much like Cunningham's journeys from a kid dribbling a basketball and shooting baskets on his driveway to becoming an all-stater and 1996 Times Player of the year while starring in basketball for Andrean, to playing at Oregon State, and then Purdue. He also played professionally for the Gary Steelheads and Rockford Lighting of the Continental Basketball Association as well as in Australia. He returned home and had a successful five-year run as Andrean's boys basketball coach. He was 81-39, won four sectional titles and one regional.
He has written three other books: "American Hoops," "Underbelly Hoops," and "Before the Curse."
Cunningham is also busy rebuilding the Carroll College Fighting Saints men's basketball program. In his first season, he took a team that won two games to winning nine and lowered its points allowed per game from 78.8 to 70.5. He said the Fighting Saints finished 2013-14 as the NAIA's top free-throw shooting team.
"We're getting there," Cunningham said. "The kids are willing to work and have bought in to our philosophy. This is a great place, a great school and, hopefully, will have a great basketball program.
"Helena is a great place to raise a family and I am really enjoying it."