June 28, 2007

A love affair that started long ago with the Detroit Pistons became a reality Thursday (June 28) for former Eastern Washington University basketball standout Rodney Stuckey.

The National Basketball Association team selected Stuckey as the 15th pick overall in the draft, which took place at Madison Square Garden in New York City. He is expected to fly to Detroit Friday and begin preparations for the NBA Summer League, which begins for the Pistons on July 6 in Las Vegas, Nev.

He becomes EWU's highest draft pick ever and just the second in school history, and was also the second-highest selection in the 44-year history of the Big Sky Conference. He was even picked higher than Spokane's favorite son and NBA All-Star, John Stockton.

For Stuckey, who averaged 24 points per game in two spectacular seasons in an EWU uniform, it was a dream come true, but one that was hard to imagine for the player nicknamed "Hot Rod." He's now headed to the city nicknamed "Motown."

"I couldn't imagine myself at Madison Square Garden, let alone be selected in the NBA Draft," said the soft-spoken and humble Stuckey to ESPN radio shortly after the pick was announced.

"(It was a dream) for me and my family," he continued. "We've been through a lot. I'm just blessed to be here in this situation right now."

Stuckey was scouted by the Pistons this past winter, and nearly two months ago mentioned Detroit as his pick to win the NBA title and an organization he highly admired. The Pistons, who won the NBA title in 2004, were 53-29 this season to win the Central Division title, but fell to Cleveland in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The feeling, obviously, was mutual. But although it was widely-rumored the Pistons would take him in the first round regardless of who was available at that point in the draft, Stuckey was nervous.

"It was hard -- I didn't know what to expect," he explained to ESPN. "Anything can happen. I'm happy to be with a good organization and I'm excited to be here."

His role with the Pistons is clear, but what isn't clear is whether point guard Chauncey Billups will return next season. The NBA All-Star announced on June 25 that he will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and bypass the final year of his contract, which would have paid him $6,819,000 next season.

"(My role is to) bring a young Chauncey Billups to Detroit," he said to ESPN Radio. "People compare me to him. I need to set-up the offense, aggressively go to the basket, play good defense and help in any way I can."

Stuckey is believed to be the second-highest local player ever selected, surpassed only by former Gonzaga star Adam Morrison who was the third pick last year by the Charlotte Bobcats. Stockton, also a Gonzaga standout, was selected 16th by the Utah Jazz when he was drafted in 1984.

Eastern's only previous NBA draftee is Ron Cox, a sixth-round draft choice by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1977. Although he never played a game in the NBA, Cox will remain as EWU's all-time leading scorer with 1,741 points as 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.

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.

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.

In an interview after the draft with Dennis Patchin of KXLY TV in Spokane, Stuckey had kind words to say about his three-year stint in Cheney, Wash.

"I want to thank EWU for giving me the opportunity to do what I do out on the court," he told Patchin. "It was good for me and helped me in many ways. I want to say thank you to everyone."


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

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, 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. named him as a first team Mid-Major All-America selection.

More on Rodney Stuckey and his career accomplishments can be found at:

or on the basketball pages at http://WWW.GOEAGS.COM



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