Former Hornet selected No. 1 in NBA G League Draft


Matthew Dyer - The State Hornet

Former Sacramento State center Eric Stuteville, middle, was selected No. 1 overall by the Northern Arizona Suns, the Phoenix Suns affiliate, in the 2017 NBA G League Draft on Oct. 21. played for the Sacramento Kings in the 2017 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Will Moon

Eric Stuteville was waiting to watch the 2017 NBA G League Draft on Oct. 21 when the former Sacramento State center got a call from his agent.

The Northern Arizona Suns — the Phoenix Suns affiliate — would select Stuteville No. 1 overall. Prior to the pick, no other player from Sac State had ever been drafted in the first round.

“He told me that I was the first pick, and I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ ” Stuteville said. “It was almost surreal — I would (have been) thankful to be drafted in any position.”

In July, the Orangevale native played with the Kings in Las Vegas, Nevada, in the NBA Summer League. He played 22 minutes and made 2-of-4 free-throw attempts, and he said that playing alongside NBA players gave him newfound confidence.

“The number one way that the Summer League really helped me was acknowledging that a player of my caliber and talent can play at this level,” Stuteville said. “Being around that environment, I started to understand the business aspect of (the game) and proving to yourself that you can play with these guys.”

Of the three former Hornets previously drafted, guard Mikh McKinney received the highest pick in 2016 when the Suns selected him in the second round (25th overall).

Stuteville played every game in his four-year collegiate career and set a school record for most games played (125) during his senior season in 2016-17. He also became the first center in Sac State history to score 1,000 career points and blocked the most shots (149) in the program’s Division I history.

Forward Nick Hornsby started all 31 games alongside Stuteville in 2016-17 and is playing professionally this season for the Giessen 46ers in Germany. Hornsby said he saw news of the draft on social media after a game with Giessen and immediately called his former teammate.

“I was very excited for him,” Hornsby said. “But it was kind of more of a time to get to business and make the next step (to) get better and prove everybody wrong — that’s been his (and my) mentality throughout the four years knowing each other.”

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As with McKinney — who worked out with Stuteville in Sacramento this summer after playing in the G League last season with the Delaware 87ers — Sac State was the only college to recruit Stuteville out of high school.

Sac State coach Brian Katz said Stuteville never played on an organized basketball team before his sophomore year at Casa Roble High School and was cut from the team his freshman year, but his commitment level with the Hornets helped lead to a “dramatic” improvement.

“When I got a text that (Stuteville) was the Suns No. 1 pick, I was actually kind of surprised — that’s not a slight on Eric — that’s such a huge honor that you’ve got to double-check it when you hear it,” Katz said.

Now in Prescott Valley, Arizona, and practicing with the Suns, Stuteville said he is working on free throws, rebounding, finishing shots and building a competitive presence on the court as he competes for a spot on the final team roster.