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Published: Friday, 6/29/2007

Pistons draft for backcourt depth

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Eastern Washington's Rodney Stuckey is 6-5 and very versatile. He led the Big Sky Conference, scoring 24.6 points a game. Eastern Washington's Rodney Stuckey is 6-5 and very versatile. He led the Big Sky Conference, scoring 24.6 points a game.
KATHY WILLENS / AP Enlarge

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - The Detroit Pistons used both first-round picks in last night's NBA draft to add backcourt depth.

The team selected versatile Eastern Washington guard Rodney Stuckey with the 15th overall pick. The Pistons then chose another guard, Aaron Afflalo of UCLA, with the 27th pick.

In the second round, Detroit took Sammy Mejia of DePaul, a 6-7, 218-pound guard with the 57th pick.

"I want tough guys. I want fighters. I want guys that compete," team president Joe Dumars said late yesterday. "They're not going to come here and be in awe of anyone."

An honorable mention All-American selection after his sophomore season, the 6-foot-5-inch, 205-pound Stuckey led the Big Sky Conference and was seventh in the nation with a school-record 24.6 points per game. The Seattle native ranked second in the conference in assists (5.5) and steals (2.5).

He was the conference's player of the year after his freshman season, when he averaged 24.2 points, 4.1 assists and 2.2 steals. Stuckey, who can play both guard positions, is only the second Eastern Washington player to be drafted. The first, 1977 selection Ron Cox, never played in the NBA.

"I'm happy I'm going to an organization that wins and thrives as a team," Stuckey said by telephone. "They really like big guards, and I can play the one or the two."

Like 11 of the 13 players drafted ahead of him, Stuckey is an underclassman. He was chosen with a pick the Pistons got in a trade last season with Orlando.

Stuckey comes from a small school and is used to doing everything just like Dumars did before the Pistons took him in the first round of the 1985 draft.

"He definitely has that mentality," Dumars said. "That's something you really never lose.

"When you put the ball in his hands, he's going to find open people."

The 6-5, 215-pound Afflalo left UCLA after his junior season, during which he was named Pac-10 player of the year after averaging 16.9 points and 2.4 3-point field goals per game.

He started all but one of the 104 games he played for the Bruins and helped lead them to the national semifinals in 2007 and the 2006 championship game.

The Pistons, who could lose defensive specialist Lindsey Hunter this offseason, value Afflalo's ability to guard three positions.

"I like his versatility," Dumars said. "He can develop into a big-time defender who can score."

The Pistons hope to re-sign unrestricted free agent Chauncey Billups to remain in the backcourt with Richard Hamilton. The only backup guards who saw extensive time last season were the aging Hunter and Flip Murray.

Detroit, which had the conference's best record last season, sent guard Carlos Delfino to Toronto earlier this month.

"When we've struggled in the playoffs, it's been on the perimeter," Dumars said.



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