Even Stuckey surprised by invite to New York City

Originally Published: June 27, 2007
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- Forget about Yi Jianlian for a moment. The real man of mystery here is Rodney Stuckey.

The Eastern Washington sophomore guard was a surprise invitee to New York, becoming one of 15 players chosen to attend the NBA draft.

It's a surprise because if you poll the basketball populous, he probably would be the least-known of the bunch … including Yi.

He certainly doesn't have the name recognition. Sure, he scored 24 points a game in each of his two seasons for the Eagles. But he wasn't on national television. He didn't lead Eastern Washington to the NCAA Tournament, let alone the Big Sky title. And he played in Cheney, Wash., in the shadows of Adam Morrison two seasons ago and Gonzaga and surging Washington State last season.

"I don't even know why I'm here," Stuckey told ESPN.com Wednesday. "I got the feedback from my agent. So I guess I'm here for some reason, but I don't know why."

Well, let's enlighten Mr. Stuckey: It's because he's heading to Detroit at No. 15, at the very least. But he could go higher since he worked out for Minnesota (No. 7), Phoenix (Nos. 24 and 29), Atlanta (Nos. 3 and 11), Sacramento (No. 10), the L.A. Clippers (No. 14) and Seattle (No. 2). The Suns worked him out in case they traded up to the lottery, and the Sonics did so in case they selected another pick deeper in the lottery (obviously No. 2 is going to Texas' Kevin Durant).

While Stuckey would be thrilled to go just about anywhere, his dream destination is Detroit. The Pistons were one of the first teams to scout Stuckey. Former personnel director Scott Perry, now with Seattle, watched Stuckey as a freshman when Eastern Washington played at Cal State Fullerton.

"It's my style of play, and they've compared me to a Chauncey Billups-type guard," Stuckey said. "I'm a big guard [6-foot-5], and they need a backup point guard. I can learn from the best people: Rip Hamilton, Chauncey, Flip Saunders and Joe Dumars. It's a great organization. It's perfect for me."

The Pistons see Stuckey as a player similar to Dumars and Lindsey Hunter: someone from a small school who plays with an edge. Dumars and Hunter played at McNeese State and Jackson State, respectively.

"You can find someone anywhere, and I'm in this position because they found me," Stuckey said.

But it's not like Stuckey came out of nowhere. He played in the Seattle area with Marvin Williams, who went on to play on a national championship team with North Carolina for one season before being the No. 2 pick in the draft two years ago by Atlanta. But a poor academic record forced Stuckey out of the mainstream mix of the big Washington schools, and he ended up at Eastern Washington. He sat out one season for academic reasons and then played the past two for coach Mike Burns. But Burns couldn't get the Eagles to the NCAAs and was abruptly fired last month.

"That was surprising to us to fire a head coach like that," Stuckey said. "If you're going to do that, you do it after the season, not waiting a month. It was devastating to everyone. It was crazy. It was a bad situation and a bad time."

So even though Stuckey couldn't lead his team to the NCAAs, he will potentially carry the EWU banner into the first round, becoming the school's highest draft selection and the first Eagle to play in the NBA (Ron Cox was drafted in 1977, but never played in the league).

Three years out of high school, Stuckey is ready to make a splash.

"It's going to be hard and a grind, but I'm ready for the challenge," he said.

Andy Katz is a senior writer ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com