Suns Scout Stoudemire
By Dustin Krugel
Posted: May 22, 2002
Last Saturday NBA hopeful Amare Stoudemire graduated from high school, but he hasn’t had too much time to ponder his newfound freedom.
On Monday, the Orlando Magic became the first NBA team to work out the 6-9, 245-pound man-child from Cypress Creek (Fla.) High School and the Suns followed up with a private workout of their own at America West Arena Wednesday morning. His next stop is scheduled for Friday with the Houston Rockets, who own the first selection in next month’s NBA Draft.
“He certainly has a little bounce in his step,” Suns Head Coach Frank Johnson said of Stoudemire, who is projected as a lottery pick. “He’s a very raw, young talented player and with some work he can certainly be pretty good in this league.”
On looks alone, the 6-9, 245-pound Stoudemire already resembles an NBA power forward even though he hasn’t reached the age of 20 yet and has no college experience.
“He’s a little older than your average high school graduate,” Suns President and General Manager Bryan Colangelo said of Stoudemire, who was joined at the workout by Illinois guard Frank Williams, Iowa guard Luke Recker and Brown Mackie JC (Salina, Kan.) forward Lee Benson. “Physically, he matches up pretty well against a lot of NBA prospects right now, in fact, probably against a lot of NBA players. He’s got an NBA body.”
“No, he’s not (skinny)?” Johnson smiled. “He grew up in Florida and I asked him if he ever loaded watermelons and picked oranges. He said, ‘No.’ Maybe that would have helped his development. That is what I did growing up as a kid. He said, ‘No, my grandfather did that. No, that’s hard work. I didn’t do that.’”
But to become the next Kevin Garnett or Kobe Bryant, Johnson said Stoudemire and every other NBA prospect, for that matter, must prove they are not afraid of a little hard work to achieve success at the NBA level.
“It comes down to how much are they willing to work and to improve and get better,” Johnson pointed out. “A lot of times you just don’t know what is inside a kid. What pushes them and do they really want to put forth what it takes to become one of the better players in the league. Some have and some haven’t.”
Last year’s draft alone included four high school draft picks, all of whom were selected in the first eight picks, but only the No. 2 overall pick Tyson Chandler (19.6 minutes, 6.1 points, 4.8 rebounds) made a sizeable contribution in his rookie season. For every Garnett and Bryant there seems to be a Leon Smith or Jonathan Bender, who do not live up to their potential.
“We can all look at Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant and just marvel at their success, but we really don’t talk about the other kids who have failed,” Johnson said. “We just marvel at the success of some of the high school kids and rightfully so.”
Colangelo, who watched Stoudemire at the McDonald’s High School All-American practices recently, said he continued to make a good impression on the Suns, who hold the ninth and 22nd picks in the draft.
“He just seems to really enjoy the game of basketball,” Colangelo said. “He has a zeal for it. Basically, you see him as a future star in the game, but it’s going to take some time. He’s going to have to learn to play the NBA game and develop a more complete game.”
Stephon Marbury and Danny Ainge take in a pre-draft workout at AWA.
Although the Suns pre-draft workouts are not open to the general public, they have been well attended. Suns CEO Jerry Colangelo, guard Stephon Marbury, former Suns Head Coaches Danny Ainge and Cotton Fitzsimmons, former Suns guard Vinny Del Negro, former Suns forward Cedric Ceballos and former Suns swingman Dan Majerle have all made appearances recently. In fact, Marbury has stopped by the practice court at America West Arena to catch a few minutes of all four workouts.
FRANK ON FRANK
After the workout, Johnson came away impressed with Illinois point guard Frank Williams, who was the 2001 Big Ten Player of the Year and was a 2002 First-Team All-Big Ten selection.
“He’s one of those guys when you’re going through drills that might not impress you, but when go out there and play two-on-two, he’s a gamer,” he said of Williams, who declared for the draft after his junior season. “That’s the one thing that struck me about him. Some guys you put them through (drills) and it’s like, ‘Nah,’ but then you put them in game situations and that’s when he comes to a forefront.”
With the luxury of having two picks in the first round, Colangelo said the Suns would not rule out the possibility of adding another guard to the Marbury, Penny Hardaway, Joe Johnson and Milt Palacio backcourt rotation despite the team’s obvious need of more size in the frontcourt.
“We have a lot of versatility there, but you can never have enough shooters and there are a few shooters in this draft,” he said. “Luke Recker among them and even Frank Williams has proven he can score in a lot of situations effectively in games. We are looking to solidify every angle of it.”