Stoudemire eager to shake his bad reputationPosted: Wednesday June 26, 2002 10:39 PM
By Albert Lin, CNNSI.com
NEW YORK -- Amare Stoudemire long has been considered a poster child for what is wrong with basketball in this country.
He attended six different high schools, including three in his junior year -- none of which he was eligible to play for. He lived with his AAU coach in Florida rather than with family. Though he committed to Memphis after that junior year, no one really expected him to matriculate. He showed up at last summer's Nike All-American Camp with a personal publicist.
Those who know him, though, think Stoudemire has gotten a bad rap. He's had people pulling at him from all directions. With his physical tools, he was almost a sure-fire lottery pick.
Observers praised his work ethic and on-court intensity. And far from being monosyllabic, Stoudemire is a friendly, articulate, confident 19-year-old who peppers his comments with "man" and "bro" and plans to continue his education by taking college courses during the summer.
During the rest of the year, Stoudemire will have another gig: He will man the post for the Phoenix Suns, who selected him ninth overall in Wednesday's NBA Draft.
"This has been my dream since I was a little kid," Stoudemire said. "Now that it's finally real, I feel very good. I may be the happiest person on the earth right now."
Stoudemire exploded into the nation's basketball conscience two summers ago at the Nike Camp, when he outplayed the likes of Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry and Ousmane Cisse, all of whom were drafted in 2001 out of high school. Many recruiting analysts rated him the best player in the country regardless of class.
Despite not playing as a junior, he bounced back to average 29.1 points, 15 rebounds and 6.1 blocked shots for Cypress Creek High in Orlando as a senior, earning Mr. Basketball honors in Florida. The only reason Stoudemire wasn't picked in the top eight -- like Chandler, Curry, Kwame Brown and DeSagana Diop -- was the surplus of size at the top of this year's draft.
Though he looks slender at 6-foot-10, 233 pounds, Stoudemire may be the most physically ready of any of high schoolers taken in the first round, dating to Kevin Garnett in 1995.
His offensive skills are raw, but with his strength and athleticism, he should be able to do a reasonable impression of the Detroit Pistons' Ben Wallace. Moreover, playing with Stephon Marbury and Shawn Marion in an up-tempo system should afford Stoudemire plenty of dunk and layup opportunities.
The biggest difference he expects to encounter in the NBA?
"Physical play, but that's my type of game. I guess that's why I went high in the draft this year." Stoudemire said. "But I'm working on my perimeter game so I can have an advantage against guys my size."
Stoudemire rattled off the names of several of his future Suns teammates and praised coach Frank Johnson (though he mistakenly referred to him as Frank Williams). He said he first started thinking about jumping to the NBA during his sophomore year of high school.
He seems at ease dealing with the media, whether it's a throng of print reporters or the glare of a TV camera's lights. Clearly, he follows the league and has been preparing for this move for a long time.
"I know I have a lot of hard work to do, but I think I'm mentally ready to handle that," Stoudemire said. "My game is there. I proved it in the workouts. I'm ready to get out there."