Stuckey's Six-Year Wait Ends June 28
June 6, 2007
The time was right -- maybe even perfect -- for Rodney Stuckey to leave the Eastern Washington University men's basketball program. On June 28, he finds out for sure.
Stuckey is headed for the National Basketball Association, and he will find out where he will go when the NBA draft takes place June 28. Projected by many to be a first-round draft choice, Stuckey made his decision official by announcing on May 23 that he had hired an agent and will not return to EWU for his junior season.
Goodwin Sports Management is now his main conduit to the NBA, and they had him attend the pre-draft camp in Orlando, Fla., in early June. Stuckey was one of 19 players -- most expected to be first-round draft choices -- to attend but not play in games. They were "physical only" players who ran through drills with the regular pre-draft players at the camp. It provided a brief, informal workout in which scouts could evaluate each of the players. Players ran full-court drills including a five-man weave, three-man passing and layins, as well as some half-court shooting drills.
Previously, Mike Burns, who was relieved of his head coaching duties at EWU on May 30, was Stuckey's main advisor. But six years ago, a NBA career was only a dream shared between the then-EWU assistant and the "skinny six-footer" from Kentwood High School in Kent, Wash.
Heading into his sophomore season at Kentwood, Stuckey was at Eastern's team basketball camp and had a conversation with Burns they both recently remembered.
"This has been my goal since I can remember," said the now 6-foot-5, 206-pound Stuckey. "I can remember sitting in the team room talking with coach Burns and him telling me I would be in this situation some day. He said you have to keep focused and keep your head on straight. That time is finally here."
"We both remembered the conversation we had about what a special player we thought he would become, and about how he would have to work hard and do this and do that," added Burns. "And now, six years later, he's a 3.34 student and on track to graduate, and is going to play in the NBA. It's a great story and we're very, very proud of him."
Deciding to depart early was a no-brainer to Burns. It will certainly make the rest of the coaches in the Big Sky Conference rest easier, knowing the Stuckey era is over. His 24.7 career scoring average not only shattered the school record, but ranks third in the 44-year history of the league.
"The news that Rodney was departing broke no hearts there," laughed Burns. "The one thing all the NBA guys say is `everybody in the league just raves about the Stuckey kid.' I say, `wow, no kidding?'"
Burns has known all along Stuckey had the talent for the NBA. Convincing Stuckey was the next task, but made easier by the positive feedback they received since the season ended.
Much of that information came from the NBA draft advisory committee, which was created to help underclassmen make up their minds whether or not to declare for the draft. Multiple scouts from NBA teams were at nearly every Eastern game this season, including a dozen for a game in the Los Angeles area.
"The information we were able to gather and everything that was put in front of us was very favorable regarding his draft status," explained Burns. "When you get down to counting the number of combo guards in the draft, Rodney might be the best one. The timing for him to make this decision based on where he potentially could be drafted is very good. As hard as it is for Eastern to lose him, it's the right decision."
Eventually, Stuckey became a Stuckey believer too.
"I sat down with a lot of people and received some good information," Stuckey said. "Coach Burns has helped me through this whole process. I sat down with my family and interviewed some agents. I felt like this is the right decision. I was given some pretty good feedback about being a first round draft pick."
"We thought this was the best time to go," added Stuckey. "This is a once in a lifetime chance. Not very many players get a chance to be in this situation. I sat down with my family, Coach Burns and everyone, and we decided this is the best decision for me right now. I'm excited about the future and what it is going to bring me."
Stuckey Expected to go in Mid-to-Late First Round of Draft . . .
Some mock drafts predict that Stuckey will be taken by the Detroit Pistons with the 15th pick in the draft. That was his pick to win this year's NBA title, and he is a big fan of Pistons point guard Chauncey Billups. But which NBA team picks him is of little consequence.
"It really doesn't matter. I just want to get better. It would be great to go to a good organization, and while I'm there learn from the best people who are on the court. There is no ideal place I want to go. Whoever has an interest in me and believes in my abilities, I'm all for it."
Eastern's only previous NBA draftee is Ron Cox, a sixth-round draft choice by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1977. Although he never played in the NBA regular season, Cox will remain as EWU's all-time leading scorer with 1,741 points. Stuckey finished his career fourth in school history with 1,438 points.
The only first-round draft choice in the 44-year history of the Big Sky Conference was Michael Ray Richardson from Montana. He was the fourth pick overall by the New York Knickerbockers in 1978. The last Big Sky draftee was Northern Arizona's Dan McClintock in the second round by Denver in 2000.
Even mentioning Eastern Washington and the NBA draft in the same breath is heady stuff for a player from a program out of the national limelight. But Stuckey's high praise from opposing coaches, gaudy statistics and long list of honors -- including National Freshman of the Year accolades by Collegeinsinder.com -- helped put him on the map.
Stuckey was an All-American at Eastern -- both athletically and academically -- after averaging 24 points per game in each of his two seasons. He helped EWU win 30 games in two seasons and has a 3.34 grade point average.
"My stock keeps rising -- that's what my agents are telling me," said Stuckey. "All they are hearing is good feedback from teams. Right now it's a matter of getting ready for these workouts. I'll be ready. I've been working really hard these past weeks doing two-a-days."
"It's not a perfect science, but Rodney's stock is rising," added Burns.
And it should only get better after Stuckey hired Goodwin Sports Management based in Seattle, Wash., to represent him. He started individual team workouts on June 5.
"I think the most difficult part is done," he said. "I think sitting down and picking the agency to represent you is the most difficult part. I sat down hours and hours at my house just interviewing people. I'm glad that is done. Now the fun is about to start. I'm just working out and getting ready for the workouts I have coming up. I will be ready. It is going to be fun just traveling and working out for different teams."
Goodwin Sports Management -- founded by twin brothers Aaron and Eric Goodwin -- has negotiated more than $1 billion in contracts for its pro basketball clients. In 17 years of agency work, GSM has represented more than 40 athletes - 12 that have been NBA Draft Lottery selections, four that have earned the prestigious NBA Rookie of the Year Award and five that have received gold medals as members of the USA Olympic Basketball Team.
Besides Stuckey, other clients for GSM who are eligible for June's NBA draft are unanimous college basketball player of the year Kevin Durant of Texas and Al Horford of two-time national champion Florida.
Other clients for GSM include Andre Barrett, Chris Webber, Damon Stoudamire, Delonte West, Dwight Howard, Gary Payton, Jamal Crawford, Leon Powe, Nate Robinson, Salim Stoudamire, Shareef Abdur- Rahim, Todd MacCulloch and Willie Green. From 2003-2005, GSM represented LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
"The Goodwin brothers are going to represent me really well," he said. "They are telling me that teams out there really like me and like what I do. This draft is kind of different. There are a lot of big guys out there but there are not a lot of combo guards like me. They have a lot of faith in me and I have a lot of faith in myself."
He looks forward to meeting and getting a chance to acquaint himself with all the NBA players he's previously watched from afar, particularly Durant. He has talked with Atlanta Hawks forward Marvin Williams, a former AAU teammate of Stuckey's in Seattle who has played two seasons in the NBA.
"He said it was a grind," Stuckey said. "The first couple of years you have to get used to being on the road all the time. You have to be ready and get yourself motivated for games. It's a long season."
Stuckey Vows to Eventually Return to School and Finish His Bachelor's Degree . . .
Stuckey, just a year academically away from his degree, vows to eventually return to school and finish work on his bachelor's degree.
"I plan on still getting my degree. It may take me a couple of more years, but I promised my mom that I will always get my degree. It's still going to happen."
But while he is in the NBA, he will remember his teammates, coaches and the small town of Cheney, Wash., that helped guide him to this point in his life.
"(I will miss) being around my teammates -- they are always fun to be around," he said. "And the coaching staff. Cheney is not the ideal place, but it worked for me. It kept me focused and got me where I am now -- in a good position. I want to say thanks to all the support people gave me at Eastern. Hopefully I'll come back and put on a clinic or something."
Losing a player the caliber of Stuckey will have an effect on next year's Eastern team, which returns four players with starting experience. Seven new recruits will join the returning players and a pair of 2006-07 redshirts. Plus, Eastern will have a new head coach.
"They have some pretty good recruits coming in," said Stuckey. "It's all about them playing hard every game and working hard in practice. If they do that, they will be good contenders for the Big Sky Tournament next year."
"This is a blow to Eastern Washington basketball, but at the same time it's a great thing," said Burns. "Twelve months from today we could see him running up and down the court in an NBA playoff game. I'm thrilled for him and his family for the opportunity that is going to be given to him."
Between now and June 28, it's all about Stuckey and where his NBA path will lead him.
"For Eastern to have a player in the NBA will be a spectacular accomplishment," Burns added. "He came to Eastern as a non-qualifier and left as an Academic All-American and NBA draftee. I think it speaks volumes about Rodney's character and work ethic. We're proud of him and we wish him all the best."
More on Stuckey . . .
For the second-straight season, Eastern Washington University sophomore Rodney Stuckey received honorable mention All-America honors by the Associated Press as one of the top 63 players in NCAA Division I. The AP announced its 2007 All-America Team on March 26, 2007. The team consisted of five first-team players, five second-team players, five third-team players, and 48 honorable mention picks.
Stuckey led the Big Sky in scoring at 24.6 points per game. He was second in assists with 5.52 per game and second in steals with 2.45 per game. On March 19, Stuckey was selected on the 16-person All-America squad selected by Collegeinsider.com.
Stuckey's All-America accolades are the highest by an Eastern player at the NCAA Division I level, with honorable mention All-America honors being won by Stuckey last season and Alvin Snow in 2004.
Stuckey, a 2004 graduate of Kentwood High School in Kent, Wash., led Eastern to 30 victories in the past two seasons. He is ranked seventh in NCAA Division I in scoring in 2007 with an average of 24.6 points per game after averaging 24.2 as a freshman. He has broken 10 school records and has a current career total of 1,438 points.
In addition, Stuckey was a unanimous selection on the All-Big Sky Conference team. And, with a 3.34 accumulative grade point average, he was selected as a third team selection on the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America team after earning All-District VIII honors earlier in the season for the second-straight season.
In his freshman season, Collegeinsider.com voted Stuckey as its National Freshman of the Year and this year named him its pick as Big Sky Conference Player of the Year. Earlier this season, Stuckey was selected to the All-District 9 squad by the United States Basketball Writers Association and earned All-District 13 honors from the National Association of Basketball Coaches. Collegehoops.net named him as a first team Mid-Major All-America selection.
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