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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Suns rookies impress going into scrimmage

    Arizona men’s basketball fans typically have many chances to watch future NBA players compete as Wildcats. Tomorrow at 6 p.m. in McKale Center, the same fans will get to see veteran NBA stars, as the Phoenix Suns hold a public intrasquad scrimmage.

    And they will also see three players in the middle of the timeline: rookies with college experience and diplomas – two of them fresh off campus – who are trying to impress the coaches enough to stick with the team.

    Forward Alando Tucker and guard D.J. Strawberry graduated from Wisconsin and Maryland, respectively, in May. Invitee forward Doug Thomas graduated from Iowa in 2006 then spent some time in the first division of the Swiss professional leagues.

    “”Both of them have good skills that we could tap into,”” Suns head coach Mike D’Antoni said of Tucker and Strawberry. “”They’re trying to transition to a quick game. It’s a little sloppy right now, but they’ll build into it. I’m pleased with the progress.””

    Strawberry, a second-round NBA draft pick in June, and Tucker, a first-round pick, got a taste of the pro game and lifestyle before training camp in Tucson when both joined their Suns teammates at the Sept. 14 Yao/Nash Charity Gala event, a charity basketball game in Beijing.

    But for their first full season, the rookies will “”need to keep both ears open,”” said forward Shawn Marion, who played a season at UNLV.

    Nine-year NBA veteran and Suns newcomer Brian Skinner said he’s pleased with the rookies’ development in the short week since the Suns began their workouts Tuesday and added that a college foundation will give them a head start in the NBA.

    “”You need that experience – college is a good experience,”” said Skinner, who graduated from Baylor in 1998. “”(The rookies) are doing good, they’re just young. It’s a different style of game and a different style of play. They have a lot to learn in just a little bit of time. They’ll learn by watching film, watching other players, and the players that pick up on the game faster are the players that standout … like Kevin Garnett, Karl Malone and LeBron James.””

    Skinner isn’t the only veteran helping the younger guys adapt. Thirteenyear veteran Grant Hill is on the team with 11-year pro Steve Nash and AmarǸ Stoudemire, who has five years in the NBA under his belt.

    Though Stoudemire won’t play for another two and a half to three weeks due to arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Tuesday morning, he joined the team yesterday, talking loud and often – especially to rookies.

    Tucker said he heeds the advice.

    “”All the veteran players have helped me a lot through this whole process,”” he said. “”They take care of the rookies. You have to have respect for the things they do, but at the same time, you can’t be too much of a fan when you’re out here playing.””

    Tucker said his younger brother Aaron and younger sister Alivia love the Suns and couldn’t be happier that he landed in Phoenix.

    “”It’s a dream come true,”” he said. “”I’m drafted in the first round and playing for a team that has a good chance to win a championship.””

    Tucker added that the transition from college has been easy. He left Wisconsin as the team’s all-time leading scorer (2,217) and averaged 17.4 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists in five games for the Suns at the NBA Vegas Summer League.

    The biggest difference between the college game and the NBA game so far is the pace, he said.

    “”It’s different coming from Wisconsin,”” he said. “”It was a strictly half-court, slow- paced game, and it’s a lot faster here.””

    As for the scrimmage in McKale, Tucker said that it will help him complete the step up to the NBA.

    “”Familiar courts ease my comfort level,”” Tucker said. “”It makes the transition moother.””

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