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Sports >  EWU basketball

All business on, off the court: Former Eastern Washington star and NBA player Rodney Stuckey satisfies basketball fix with his own Shoot 360 facility

April 13, 2022 Updated Wed., April 13, 2022 at 7:23 p.m.

By Dave Cook For The Spokesman-Review

Rodney Stuckey learned a few lessons in his 10 years in the National Basketball Association, and before that as an All-American at Eastern Washington University.

Among them, he learned that disruptions were merely a challenge that could be overcome as he began his new business venture during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Just a few short months after realizing a dream by opening the Shoot 360 basketball training facility in Kirkland, ington, his post-playing career plan was suddenly shot down in 2020. The pandemic closed their doors, stalling the momentum started with 500 individual memberships, appearances from college and high school teams, the presence of former pros such as himself and media exposure.

It’s finally returned to normal this year, but it was a difficult two years to endure.

“When we first opened we were getting hit like crazy, and soon we were up to 500-plus members,” he says. “But the pandemic hit and we had to wait and be patient. A lot of the members stayed with us, and once we opened back up it got back to where we left off.”

Among his past disruptions were the year he had to take off to get his academics in order before he could play at EWU, a delay to his regular season debut in the NBA and the injury and interruption that eventually ended his 10-year professional career.

On June 28, 2007, Stuckey was taken 15th overall in the 2007 NBA draft by the Detroit Pistons, and then averaged 16.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists in the pre-season. But a hand injury in the final preseason game of his rookie season delayed his official NBA start by two months.

“Even though I broke my hand, they had me on a schedule,” Stuckey says of the Pistons organization. “Once my hand was okay after surgery, I was working out and doing everything I could with my left hand, my legs and my core. But with COVID, it was a different story.”

That injury proved to be a blip in his career, and he went on to earn second team All-Rookie honors in the 2007-08 campaign. He returned to Eastern’s campus in 2009 to have his jersey officially retired, joining only Ron Cox currently with that honor. In 2014, the Big Sky Conference honored him as No. 13 on the list of the league’s top 50 male athletes to commemorate its 50th anniversary.

During a 10-year career in the National Basketball Association, Stuckey averaged 12.8 points and played in 612 total regular season games (302 starts) in seven years with the Pistons and three with the Indiana Pacers. However, a foot injury kept him out of much of the 2015-16 season, then the following year he was hampered by a knee injury and injuries to both hamstrings. He was eventually waived by the Pacers on March 29, 2017.

He still thought he could get healthy and play in the NBA again, but then he began coaching at his alma mater, Kentwood, for his former teammate Blake Solomon. His post-NBA dreams of building a gym started to develop simultaneously at that time, especially after suffering a ruptured patellar tendon two years ago.

“As you get older, you don’t want to do as much banging like you do in basketball,” he explains. “Right now I just want to get some cardio in and stay in shape.”

Spending his time teaching players about basketball and less playing the game has also provided more time with his wife, Heidi, and their children. He’s also coaching “Team Stuck,” an elite AAU traveling team for high school girls.

It was while he was in Indiana with the Pacers that Stuckey first heard of Shoot 360. Fred Jones, a friend and former player at Oregon, opened a Shoot 360 facility in Indianapolis and invited Stuckey to visit.

“I never made the time to check it out while I was playing, but Shoot 360 stuck in my head,” Stuckey explains. “When I was retired and met with my financial advisor, I told him and about it and we researched it right there on his computer. He was going, ‘wow, this is crazy. There is nothing out here like this, and it would be so great to bring one here.’ ”

They then reached out to the Shoot 360 founder, Craig Moody and started the conversation. The company is based in Vancouver, Washington, and its first two locations were in Beaverton, Oregon, and Vancouver.

Stuckey then flew down to Los Angeles to see in action a Shoot 360 facility, which was newer and more advanced technologically than the two in the Portland area.

“I was just in awe – it was unbelievable,” he said. “I knew I had to bring one to Washington. After that it was figuring out the location, designing it and mapping it all out.”

Eventually, Kirkland was selected as the site, and they opened in December of 2019. But by the end of the basketball season, they were closed.

“You invest so much money and time into your business, then all the sudden you have to shut down,” he added. “But there are still bills you are expected to pay. Everybody is hurt in this situation. I wish it all could have been different – that was the toughest thing.”

Now that they are back open, he wants to regain the momentum and show off his facility to anybody with a remote interest in basketball. He knows the clientele well, and knows the technological aspects will hook them. His gym currently has a waitlist for new members, so it’s definitely catching on.

“Technology gives players instant feedback on what they are doing,” he explains. “Everything is via an app once you become a member, and you can check your progress. It’s a fun way to learn basketball – it’s super interactive and a fun way to bring basketball to the Northwest.”

The majority of his members are elementary and middle school kids, and Shoot 360 has a leg up on video games. It adds a physical component to the goals of scoring achievements and passing levels.

Former EWU head coach Ray Giacoletti, who originally helped bring Stuckey to Cheney, recognizes the importance of having community gyms such as the one Stuckey has opened.

“When I was growing up, there were facilities everywhere, but they were more like gyms at the YMCA or at the Boys and Girls Club. There aren’t enough of those places anymore where kids can go and just play.

“So the more facilities there are that can get kids to learn fundamentals at a young age is important,” Giacoletti continued. “And in Rodney’s case they have somebody to look up to who is from that community and played at a high level in college and the NBA. It gives kids a hope and inspiration to be the best player they can be.”

Stuckey helped open the state-of-the-art facility in December of 2019, but it shuttered its doors on March 16, 2020. It re-opened, but then closed again Nov. 17 to Feb. 1, 2021.

It includes a full-size court and eight individual shooting and player development stations enhanced with technology features.

“Everything has been good and is back up and running,” he says, but still acknowledging they are not out of the woods yet. “Everything is smoother now.”

The same kind of facility opened in Spokane under the direction of another former NBA player, former Gonzaga standout Dan Dickau. The Spokane facility was the 18th opened by Shoot 360, which has locations in 13 states and is known for its innovative, video-based use of technology.

“I had some conversations with him about my experiences with Shoot 360,” Stuckey said of his association with Dickau. “It’s a cool concept.”

After leading Kentwood High School near Seattle to a state championship in 2004, Stuckey was declared a NCAA non-qualifier out of high school because of a lack of academic focus early in his high school career. The summer before, the Eastern Washington coaching staff developed a relationship with Stuckey while he was playing AAU basketball for Seattle Rotary.

Eventually, since EWU was able to sign non-qualifiers out of high school, Stuckey picked EWU over playing immediately at a junior college.

“We had to adhere with the NCAA rules, but it struck a chord when Rodney’s situation arose that summer,” said Giacoletti, who is now an assistant at Saint Louis University. “We tried to help him the best we could through the process. There were bumps in the road, but ultimately the plan worked.

“We were able to see him play during his outstanding senior season because he had already signed with us, but that necessarily didn’t mean anything,” added Giacoletti, who led EWU to the NCAA Tournament in 2004 and then departed to be head coach at Utah. “Before I left, I saw every high level junior college in the country recruiting him. That gave him a solution to play right away, but in the end, the plan to come to Eastern worked.”

So instead of heading for the likes of Washington or Gonzaga, Stuckey spent a year in Cheney, Wash., on his own dime without being able to even practice with the team.

Those dimes Stuckey spent, in time, would turn to millions of dollars as he continued to pursue his basketball dreams by playing in Spokane and back home in Seattle at any gym he could find a game. At that point in his life, he was patient and not concerned.

“It was easier for me because I was still able to be around the team, even though I couldn’t practice,” he said. “I was still finding ways to play basketball and was working out, and I had friends at school. I wasn’t worried about not playing because I knew my time was coming.”

Stuckey not only got good enough grades at EWU to play for the Eagles in the 2005-06 season, but he would eventually become a 3.34 student at EWU and earn Academic All-America accolades for excelling both on the court and in the classroom. Twice he earned honorable mention All-America honors for his basketball acumen during a two-year career that saw him score 1,438 points in 59 career games.

Stuckey burst onto the scene in the 2005-06 season to earn national Freshman of the Year accolades, and was the Big Sky Conference MVP and Freshman of the Year. He scored 20 points and had seven rebounds as a freshman versus Gonzaga, then had 18 points and four assists against the Bulldogs a year later.

Stuckey ranked in the top eight in NCAA Division I in scoring in each of his two seasons (24.2 to rank eighth in 2005-06 and 24.6 to rank seventh in 2006-07). He broke 10 school records and finished fourth at EWU for career scoring despite playing just 59 career games.

He had the option to transfer to a bigger school, but Stuckey declared for the 2007 NBA draft without hiring an agent. However, he quickly climbed draft boards, and easily became EWU’s top draft choice in school history and the second-highest in league history.

“Rodney is a great success story and a great example for others,” added Giacoletti, whose other coaching stops have included as an assistant at Gonzaga and as a head coach at Drake. “He sat out, made an immediate impact and then was a first round choice in the NBA Draft after his second year. It couldn’t have worked out any better for him.”

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