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NBA at UA: Amazing Amaré finally arrives

Claire C. Laurence/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Phoenix Suns Amaré Stoudemire, left, and Steve Nash discuss a play at Tuesday's team practice in McKale Center. Stoudemire would have been a senior this year had he gone to college. 'I knew I was going to the NBA. I told my friends in my ninth-grade year, when I transferred to an academy school,' he said.
By Roman Veytsman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, October 6, 2005
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One-time UA recruit Stoudemire shows up with wisdom for Cats

Imagine Phoenix Suns All-Star forward Amaré Stoudemire on this year's Arizona men's basketball team.

If he had gone to college, Stoudemire would have been a senior this season, teaming with Hassan Adams, Mustafa Shakur and the rest of Lute Olson's bunch. But it was never meant to be.

"I knew I was going to the NBA. I told my friends in my ninth-grade year, when I transferred to an academy school," Stoudemire said in McKale Center Tuesday. "I said, 'Hey, I'm going (pro) out of my high school, and I'll see you guys when I get back.'"

Stoudemire, 22, entering his fourth year in the NBA, said he doesn't regret missing out on the college life.

"Not at all. The money that I've just received got me feeling really good right now," he said with a chuckle.

Fresh off a season in which he averaged 26 points and almost nine rebounds per game, Stoudemire received a five-year, $72.6 million contract extension, locking him up with the team he almost took to the NBA Finals last year.

Life wasn't always easy for Stoudemire, who grew up poor in Florida, bounced between six different high schools and saw his mother incarcerated. With all that going on in his life, he also had to deal with every top college in the country recruiting him heavily.

Stoudemire said he never got a chance to speak with Olson, but that he remembers many letters coming from Arizona's head coach.

"There's no doubt he would have been a great Arizona Wildcat, but we didn't really recruit him because we really just didn't think he would show up to college," said Arizona assistant coach Josh Pastner.

"We tried. We asked him tonight," Pastner said Tuesday. "We told him he has a year of eligibility left, and all he has to do is pay back his $80 or $90 million to regain his status, and then he's good to go."

In his rookie year, after being taken ninth overall by the Suns, Stoudemire took home rookie of the year honors, surprising some with his quick adjustment to the NBA. However, Stoudemire said, going to college and playing for a coach like Olson would have helped him mature.

"I think I would have came into the league with the same game that I have now," he said. "It took me a year or two to figure out the NBA game and the style, and if I went to college, it would have helped me mature more as far as fundamentals on the court."

Although Stoudemire knew what he wanted, it was still difficult at the time to finalize his thought process.

"It was a tough decision," he said. "There's a couple of things I had to factor in: education and currency. I also wanted to reach my all-time goal of being an NBA superstar, and I got started early."

Starting next season, the NBA will enforce a rule that doesn't allow players to enter the NBA straight out of high school, a rule Stoudemire said he isn't fond of.

"I think it's baloney, to be honest with you," he said. "If guys are ready to come out of high school like myself and (Cleveland Cavaliers star) LeBron James, then why not?"

With his success in the NBA, Stoudemire has become an influential figure in basketball circles, and Arizona players like Shakur and Adams came out to watch him practice Tuesday.

"A lot of guys look up to him, and to his credit, he's done a great job," Pastner said of Stoudemire. "He's been a great role model. From where he's come from to where he is now, it's unbelievable."

Stoudemire said he encouraged the attending Wildcats to stay focused.

"I tell them all the time, 'Hey guys, just stay focused on and off the court. You got a lot of distractions. Just stay focused, and whatever your goals are, you do whatever it takes to reach them.'"

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