By Amy Ansalone, Knicks Fan Since '91
Amar’e Stoudemaire, Forward-Center, Cypress Creek High School, Florida
Drafted: 2002 by the Phoenix Suns, 1st Round (9th overall)
Amar’e Stoudemire entered the 2002 NBA Draft straight out of Cypress Creek High School in Orlando, Florida, where he averaged 29.1 points and 15 rebounds per game. It was these impressive stats that got him selected to play in the 2002 McDonald’s All-American Game at Madison Square Garden, his future home court.
STAT had the honor of being named Florida’s Mr. Basketball, and Florida High School Player of the Year by the Orlando Sentinel newspaper. He then went on to earn a spot on the USA Today’s All-USA Basketball First Team. After establishing himself as one of the best young players in the country, Stoudemire decided to forego college and enter the draft.
With a talented roster of hopefuls looking to begin their NBA career, Stoudemire was the only candidate to come straight from high school that year. Chinese superstar, Yao Ming, was selected as the first pick overall by the Houston Rockets. The draft was chock full of foreign players, including: Bostjan Nachbar, Milos Vujanic, and Nenad Krstic. Also picked were future New York Knicks teammate, Jared Jefferies (who was selected 11th by the Washington Wizards) and future opponents, Carlos Boozer (currently of the Chicago Bulls, selected 35th by the Cleveland Cavaliers), and the L.A. Clippers' Matt Barnes (selected as the 46th pick by the Memphis Grizzlies).
Expecting him to thrive on a dynamic team that already included Stephon Marbury, Shawn Marion and Anfernee Hardaway, the Phoenix Suns and Coach Frank Johnson selected Amar'e 9th overall. He proved himself as a good pick for the team after being named Rookie of the Year, starting 71 out of the 82 regular season games and being named to the 2002-2003 All-Rookie First Team.
Stoudemire then went on the have a successful eight-year career with the Phoenix Suns, establishing himself as an explosive offensive player averaging almost 20 ppg. During his time with the team, STAT was consistently named an NBA All-Star, a member of the All-NBA First Team or Second Team and a member of Team USA, taking home Olympic medals.
The New York Knicks acquired Stoudemire in a sign-and-trade deal in 2010. Amar'e famously declared upon his arrival that the "Knicks are back." That season he led the team to their first NBA Playoffs since 2004. Thus far, Amar'e has averaged 20.8 ppg and over seven rebounds in his three seasons in New York. Despite some injury setbacks, Amar'e has shown an admirable willingness to adjust his game and recently has had very encouraging success developing a post game under the tutelage of NBA legend Hakeem Olajuwon.
Photo by M. David Leeds/NBAE/Getty Images