Friday, June 29, 2007


Stuckey's Day...and EWU's too!

It's not often you get your school's name and logo plastered all over ESPN. But that was the case during Thrusday's NBA draft when Eastern's Rodney Stuckey was chosen in the first round by the Detroit Pistons. It's publicity you can't buy, and has put "Eagle Nation" in a somewhat better mood after the rough last couple months over in athletics.
Here's a great column from the Spokeman's John Blanchette on how the Stuckey-factor will help Eastern.
start something big.

Friday, June 29, 2007

John Blanchette: EWU gets assist on Stuckey pick

Yes, it's a long journey from Eastern Washington University to the NBA.
It helps if somebody can show you a shortcut from in-spite-of to because-of, and Rodney Stuckey seems to have found himself just such a guide.
To explain: Up to and immediately after his selection by the Detroit Pistons with the 15th pick in Thursday's NBA draft, Stuckey fenced constant questions about the school where he'd played his college basketball. All were phrased differently, but they pretty much boiled down to, "So, Eastern Washington – what's up with that?"
Then they asked it of Joe Dumars, the Pistons' president of basketball operations and resident icon.
Did they ever ask the right guy.
"Those guards who play at small schools, they have to do everything for their team," said Dumars, who did it at McNeese State before his 14-year playing career with the Pistons. "I know how that is.
"When you're in his position, you have to do everything for your team. You have to carry a tremendous load. I understood what he was doing out there was pretty special. It's not easy to carry an entire team, but he did it – and he did it with an edge."
There you have it. Eastern, at least in the eyes of Dumars and the Pistons, was actually an asset in Stuckey's resumé.
You wonder if anybody else had the imagination to look at it that way.
Not just for that reason, but it was a happy day all around for Stuckey and EWU and a welcome one after a weighty month. The midround slot more than justified the player's modest risk and his admirers' devotion, and the school caught some of the reflected sunlight, which it will certainly enjoy.
It has been 30 years since a Big Sky Conference player was a first-rounder – Montana's Micheal Ray Richardson going No. 4 in 1978 – and a year more that Eastern has had a player selected. Ron Cox, the pride of Coulee City, Wash., was a sixth-round pick back when the draft went eight rounds instead of two – slotted between a guy from Milligan and a guy from Rutgers-Camden. None, alas, had a Joe Dumars for an advocate.
If you can't grasp how the basketball world has changed, consider that Cox learned of his selection from KHQ's sports director Ed Sharman and not ESPN – or even the Cleveland Cavaliers, who made the pick. They didn't track down Cox until the next day.
Difference No. 2 can be summed up in Cox's best story from rookie camp.
"Bill Fitch was the coach and Jimmie Rodgers was the assistant and we were going through a passing drill, and we're making turnover after turnover," he remembered. "They're screaming and yelling and getting on guys and after about four turnovers by the guys in line in front of me, Fitch yells, 'Cox, if you turn this over it's a $50 fine.'
"And the guy behind me said, 'Are we getting paid?' "
It's a question Stuckey won't have to ask. His two guaranteed years are worth $1.3 and $1.4 million, not including the considerable signing bonus, and two more team-option years could make him another $3.75 million.
The way Dumars glowed over the choice, it may be a bargain.
"He's not simply a '2' guard masquerading as a point guard," he said. "This kid can really pass and really see – he has great vision and can deliver the ball."
The Pistons did their homework – director of scouting George David, former player personnel director Scott Perry and vice president John Hammond all scouted Stuckey in person before he was brought to Detroit so Dumars could eyeball him.
"John Hammond is a pretty good friend of mine and I knew that even back in January they really liked him a lot," said EWU's new head coach, Kirk Earlywine. "He was on their radar for a long time."
Mike Burns' radar, too. Recently fired and replaced by Earlywine, it was Burns' shoe-leather recruiting that lured Stuckey to Eastern – and if not winning enough with him contributed to Burns' dismissal, he should get a tip of the cap for at least setting in motion what culminated with Thursday's celebration, and what it could mean for the program.
"It just opens doors," acknowledged Earlywine. "In kids' minds, they're not sure they can turn an opportunity in the Big Sky Conference into an opportunity in the NBA. This proves that you can."
Of course, it would help if Stuckey and the Eagles maintained some sort of relationship, an issue of some concern with any early entry into the NBA accompanied by a fractious coaching change. Earlywine reported good news on that front, as well.
"When I was named head coach, I had a to-do list that was pages long and one of those things was to talk to Rodney," he said, "and let him know we would do anything we could to help him finish his degree and that we wanted him involved in the program. Before I could do that, he got ahold of me – he tracked me down – to let me know he'd do anything he could to help us.
"I think that says volumes. He's as good as it gets."
And not in spite of his school, but maybe because of it.

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