Jan. 13, 2009
By Keenan Bowen, EWU Sports Information
In a year when he would have been an Eastern Washington University senior, Rodney Stuckey has quickly proven he didn’t have to play four years of college basketball to be a star in the National Basketball Association.
But there are certainly some things he misses about college life at EWU.
The former Eastern men’s basketball All-American and current Detroit Piston starter returned to Eastern to have his EWU jersey retired in ceremonies that took place on Sunday, Jan. 11 at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
The event took place in conjunction with Eastern’s Big Sky Conference game against Weber State that was televised live regionally on Altitude Sports and Entertainment. He spent more than an hour afterward signing autographs and taking photos with Eastern fans.
Stuckey played his freshman and sophomore seasons at Eastern before becoming a first-round draft choice (15th overall) by the Pistons in the 2007 National Basketball Association draft. He became Detroit’s full-time starter at point guard on Dec. 9, and on Dec. 23 had a breakthrough game with 40 points, four assists and four steals in a 104-98 victory over Chicago.
He had another huge game with 38 points and seven assists in a 98-92 victory over Sacramento on Jan. 2 to help him earn NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors. He helped the Pistons win four-straight games to earn the honor, averaging 23 points, 5.3 assists and 4.5 rebounds.
Considering that this would have been his senior season at EWU had he remained in college, it was appropriate that Stuckey was honored in such a manner. He spent three years on the EWU campus and still has many friends in Cheney, including former high school teammate Aaron Boyce, who is an All-America wide receiver for the Eagle football team. At the ceremony, Boyce presented a framed photo collage to Stuckey on behalf of EWU Athletics.
Stuckey was an All-American at Eastern -- both athletically and academically -- after averaging 24 points per game in each of his two seasons (2005-06 and 2006-07). He helped EWU win 30 games in two seasons and had a 3.34 grade point average. A 2004 graduate of Kentwood High School in Kent, Wash., Stuckey was a NCAA non-qualifier and had to sit out the 2004-05 season at EWU.
More on Stuckey may be found at:
Q: Did you expect to be a starter so soon in your career?
A: "I knew it was going to take time but (I didn't think I would become a starter) this quickly though. I just prepare myself to be ready all the time -- anything can happen. When Chauncey (Billups) was traded I knew my teammates and coaching staff were going to rely on me a lot more."
Q: How has your game in the NBA progressed and what has been working for you this season?
A: "It’s just me being aggressive -- that is my style of play. When I’m not being aggressive I am not doing as well. My teammates are always on me to be aggressive."
Q: Did you have to overcome the small school stigma when entering the NBA?
A: "Not really. A lot of guys didn’t know who I was at first, but as I got on the court and did my thing, I made a name for myself. Guys know who I am now so I just have to be ready to play every night because I get double teamed and all that stuff."
Q: Anything a big surprise for you in the NBA?
A: "Not really, I am used to everything now. The first thing was just traveling but other than that everything is good now."
Q: Did EWU prepare you well?
A: "I think so. Seeing all those different defenses really helped me out. It also got me in better shape too because you have to run around for the ball and you get pressed the whole game."
Q: Have you been able to keep up with EWU?
A: "I look online a lot to see how the team is doing. And I also hear from Aaron Boyce, my best friend -- he keeps me in the loop."
Q: Can you put into words what Eastern Washington University means to you?
A: "It provided me a great opportunity to succeed in what I really wanted to do -- play basketball. It also gave me time to work on my academics as well."
Q: What was it like to have your jersey retired on Sunday?
A: "It feels great to accomplish something like this. I had my high school jersey retired this past year too so it’s a blessing."
Q: What stands out for you about your time at EWU?
A: "Just hanging out with my friends -- which is something I really miss. But it’s time to move on and grow up."
Q: What was your rookie year in the NBA like, despite missing the first part of the season with an injury?
A: "I was comfortable my first year. It just took awhile after breaking my hand because I was still cautious about it. After I got over that everything starting clicking. All I am doing is having fun, that is it. I see basketball as having fun."
Q: What was the biggest adjustment you had to make as a player going from EWU to the NBA?
A: "Traveling all the time was a big adjustment -- just preparing to travel a lot and play all of those games."
Q: Do you feel like you’re living in a dream world?
A: "No it’s not a dream. This is what I want to do. Basketball is my life and I love doing it. If there wasn’t basketball I don’t know what I would do. But, obviously, I would come back here and get my degree."