Stuckey Shooting For First Round

The little-known slasher from Eastern Washington has soared up the draft board


By Bryan Armen Graham

CSTV.com



BRYAN GRAHAM

Bryan is a basketball editor for CSTV.com and contributes on a regular weekly basis.
E-mail here!

 

Basketball fans who have never heard of Rodney Stuckey are fast running out of excuses.

 

Few players have soared up the draft board more rapidly in recent weeks than Eastern Washington's dynamic swingman, who earned a reputation as one of the nation's most abundant scorers during his two collegiate seasons.

 

But even fewer first-round prospects remain more anonymous on the eve of the NBA Draft than Stuckey, who collected just 23 victories during those two years while toiling in the relative obscurity of the Big Sky Conference -- for a school which has made just one NCAA Tournament appearance in its modest history.


 

 

 

NBA hopefuls with Stuckey's dubious conference pedigree are seldom legitimate first-round picks as sophomores. Even fellow Big Sky product Michael Olowokandi played three seasons for Pacific before jumping in 1998. But the Kent, Wash., native insists his choice to leave the Cheney school was easy.

 

"It really wasn't a difficult decision," Stuckey said in a phone interview from Seattle. "All the information I was given from my coach and from [agents Aaron and Eric Goodwin] really helped make my decision."

 

As a partial qualifier out of Kentwood High, Stuckey's college options were limited. But after embracing academics upon his arrival on campus and making grades, the 6-foot-5, 207-pound slasher enjoyed one of the most prolific freshman campaigns in Division I history. 

 

Stuckey averaged 24.2 points -- the conference record for a frosh and the eighth-best clip in the country -- to go with 4.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.2 steals. He was the team's leading scorer in its final 27 games, including a 38-point performance against Portland State in the Big Sky Tournament and a school-record 45 points in a loss to Northern Arizona.

 

When the dust cleared, Stuckey was the first player in the 43-year history of the Big Sky Conference to earn conference MVP honors as a freshman. Along with breaking seven school records, his other accolades included CollegeInsider.com Freshman of the Year, Associated Press All-America Honorable Mention and NABC All-District 13 First Team honors.

 

No longer a secret to the competition as a sophomore, opposing teams targeted Stuckey in their scouting reports and the slasher adjusted accordingly. Stuckey still carried the scoring load for the Eagles -- averaging 24.6 points on 45.3 percent from the floor -- but improved as a distributor in averaging a team-best 5.5 assists from the two spot.

 

With his lengthy wingspan, explosive first step, ability to change speeds and overall aggressive style of play, Stuckey has drawn comparisons to Miami standout Dwyane Wade. His blend of strength and agility has captured the attention of pro scouts in recent weeks. But while his mid-range game is NBA-ready, questions linger regarding Stuckey's perimeter shooting ability after the sophomore connected on just 26.7 percent of his three-point attempts from the shorter collegiate distance this past season.

 

Stuckey has gone for individual workouts with Detroit, Miami and Seattle to date. A number of reports have indicated serious interest from the Pistons, who hold the No. 15 overall pick. Some mock drafts have the previously overlooked scorer going as high as No. 11.

 

"They're going really good," said Stuckey of the tryouts. "You almost do the same things in every single workout, a lot of one-on-one and two-on two, a lot of shooting and a lot of situations coming off screens."

 

While other prospects have described the individual audition as a nerve-racking experience, Stuckey's shrugs off that notion.

 

"I don't go in there nervous," Stuckey said. "You can't really do that when you're trying to perform in front of the people that are most likely going to pick you for the draft. I just try to go in there with confidence, just be focused and just do whatever they want me to do."

 

When it comes to his ultimate destination, Stuckey has a single preference in mind.

 

"I just want to win," Stuckey said. "I just want to go to a good organization."

 

But after further reflection -- perhaps on a lifetime spent in the Pacific Northwest -- Stuckey conceded a second.

 

"I'd prefer some sun," Stuckey admitted with a laugh. "I've been in the snow for a while."