Stoudamire is top rookie

First-year Phoenix Suns player beats out Yao Ming

Posted: Friday, April 25, 2003

PHOENIX - Amare Stoudemire won the NBA Rookie of the Year award Thursday, the first player to do so after coming to the league directly from high school.

The Phoenix Suns forward - quick, powerful and barely out of his teens - beat out Houston Rockets center Yao Ming, last year's No. 1 draft pick.

Stoudemire received 458 points, including 59 of a possible 117 first-place votes, in balloting by sports writers and broadcasters. Yao finished with 405 points. Caron Butler of Miami was third with 179. The players received five points for a first-place votes, three for second and one for third.

Juneau-Douglas High School alumnus Carlos Boozer Jr. earned one point from one third-place vote. He was the last of seven total players who received votes this year.

With his mother and teammates Stephon Marbury and Shawn Marion looking on, Stoudemire was presented with the trophy by Suns owner Jerry Colangelo at the packed Hard Rock Cafe in downtown Phoenix on Thursday afternoon.

"From the adjustments that I made growing up, and now here in the NBA having a pretty good season and getting the rookie of the year award, it feels great," Stoudemire said. "I feel like I stayed focused, and I've been blessed from God. ...

"It's been a great accomplishment for me. I give all the respect to my teammates. Without them, it wouldn't be possible."

Stoudemire is only the third rookie of the year since 1965 to have been chosen after the seventh pick in the draft. New York's Mark Jackson, the 1988 winner, was the 18th pick. Jamaal Wilkes of Golden State, who won in 1975, was the 11th selection in the draft.

He's the third Suns player to win the award, but the first since Walter Davis in 1978. Phoenix's Alvan Adams won in 1976.

Stoudemire, who turned 20 two weeks into the season, averaged 13.5 points and 8.8 rebounds, better rookie statistics than any player to turn pro out of high school since Moses Malone.

Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Tracy McGrady all had less impact in their rookie seasons than did Stoudemire. At 6-foot-10 and 245 pounds, he gave the Suns an inside presence crucial to their surprising drive to the playoffs.

Stoudemire was 12 when his father died. His mother was in and out of jail throughout his childhood. His older brother is in prison on drug and sex abuse convictions.

Somehow, Stoudemire stayed out of trouble. He went to six high schools and he had to sit out his junior season because of transfer rules.

Concern over his background may have been the reason he was still available when Phoenix made its pick. At the time, Suns owner Jerry Colangelo confidently predicted that Stoudemire could be the best player the team ever drafted.

He began the season as a reserve but moved into the starting lineup after 11 games. Stoudemire scored 24 points in his playoff debut against San Antonio last week, including an improbable bank-shot 3-pointer that sent the game into overtime.

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