EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated from an earlier version..
PHOENIX — The Northern Arizona Suns selected Sacramento State forward Eric Stuteville with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Gatorade League Draft on Saturday morning.
“I’ve been working this whole offseason … putting in a lot of work and seeing that happen, to be picked No. 1, it took me back. It was a little shocking,” Stuteville said during a conference call at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix.
Stuteville played 125 games, starting 91, in four years at Sacramento State, which plays in the Big Sky Conference and against the Lumberjacks of Northern Arizona University every year.
The 22-year-old Stuteville said he’s familiar with Flagstaff, but has not made the trip to Prescott Valley, something he’s looking forward to doing come Monday when training camp begins.
On Friday before the 8 a.m. trade deadline, Northern Arizona sent Michael Bryson, last year’s No. 8 overall pick, and Elijah Millsap to the Iowa Wolves for Saturday’s No. 1 selection.
General manager Louis Lehman thanked Bryson and Millsap for their commitment to the Suns organization.
“Losing returning guys like Michael, Eli, hurts us a little bit, but we found them a good spot, a good situation,” Lehman said. “We were fortunate to have a lot of returning players this year.”
Lehman said they had a few players in mind to select at No. 1 overall, but Stuteville couldn’t be ignored.
At 6-foot-11, 256 pounds, Stuteville started 31 games for the Hornets in 2016-2017, averaging 11.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.5 blocked shots in 26.8 minutes played. He shot .632 (141-223) from the field last season, the best mark in Sacramento State men's basketball history.
“We were ecstatic when we found out we got the No. 1 pick. We were working all hours of the night, working with teams on the midwest and east coast. I think we got the deal done 4:30 a.m.,” Lehman said. “We are extremely excited to have Eric part of our program.”
Suns head coach Tyrone Ellis said it’s always nice to head into a draft knowing they have control in picking the best fit for their club.
“We wanted Eric. Eric plays with that toughness, that grittiness. He’s a big that has a high motor, which I think is an underrated skill,” Ellis said, adding he looks at a players toughness first, then a player that’s smart and then skill.
“I can’t teach toughness, either you got it or you don’t,” Ellis said.
A native of Orangevale, California, who played his prep basketball at Casa Roble High School, Stuteville said he hopes to get better and better every day as a member of the Suns.
“I want to help the organization any way I can,” Stuteville said. “Obviously the goal at the end of the day is to win.”
Brian M. Bergner Jr. is sports editor and a columnist for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and SoundCloud at @SportsWriter52, or on Facebook at @SportsAboveTheFold. Reach him at email@example.com or 928-445-3333, ext. 1106.