Everything on and off the court: Former Eastern Washington star and NBA player Rodney Stuckey satisfies his basketball challenge with his Shoot 360 facility

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Rodney Stuckey took several classes as an All-American at Eastern Washington University in his 10 years with the National Basketball Association and before that.

Among them, he learned that setbacks are only a challenge that can be overcome as he embarks on his new business venture during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Just a few short months after fulfilling a dream by opening the Shoot 360 basketball practice facility in Kirkland, Wash., his post-game career plan abruptly fell through in 2020. The epidemic closed its doors and stopped the momentum that started with 500 individual memberships. Presence of ex-professionals such as appearances from college and high school teams, himself, and media exposure.

It’s finally back to normal this year, but it’s been a tough two years to endure.

“We were hit like crazy when we first opened, and we quickly grew to over 500 members,” he says. “But the pandemic has hit and we had to wait and be patient. Most of the members stayed with us and returned to where we left off after reopening.”

His past setbacks have included the year he had to set out to get his academics in order before playing for the EWU, the delay in 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 selected by the Detroit Pistons with the 15th overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, averaging 16.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.0 assists pre-season. However, a hand injury in the final practice game of his rookie season delayed the official NBA start by two months.

“Even though I broke my hand, they put me on a program,” Stuckey says of the Pistons organization. “When my hand got better after surgery, I was doing everything I could with my left hand, legs and abdomen. But with COVID it was a different story.”

This injury proved to be a matter of time in his career, and he went on to earn second-team All-Rookie honors during the 2007-08 season. His jersey returned to Eastern’s campus in 2009 to officially retire, and is currently only joined by Ron Cox with that honor. In 2014, the Big Sky Conference honored him 13th on their list of the league’s 50 best male athletes to commemorate his 50th anniversary.

During his 10-year career with the National Basketball Association, Stuckey averaged 12.8 points and played in a total of 612 regular season games (302 starts) in seven years with the Pistons and three years with the Indiana Pacers.

However, a foot injury kept him out of the way for most of the 2015-16 season, then he was blocked the following year by a knee injury and both hamstring injuries. He was eventually waived by the Pacers on March 29, 2017.

He still thought he could be healthy and play in the NBA, but later started coaching for his former teammate Blake Solomon at Kentwood, where he graduated. Dreams of building a post-NBA gym began to flourish at the same time, especially after suffering a patellar tendon rupture two years ago.

“As you get older, you don’t want to do too many clumsies like you do in basketball,” he explains. “Right now I just want to get some cardio and stay fit.”

Spending his time teaching the players basketball and playing the game less has also allowed him to spend more time with his wife Heidi and their children. She also coaches “Team Stuck,” an elite AAU traveling team for high school girls.

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

Stuckey explains, “I never had time to check it out while playing, but Shoot 360 was stuck in my head. “When I retired and met my financial advisor, I told him and everything and we researched it there on his computer. Wow, that’s crazy, he was saying. There is no such thing here and it would be great to bring one here.”

They then reached out to Shoot 360 founder Craig Moody and started the conversation. The company is headquartered in Vancouver, Wash., and its first two locations are in Beaverton, Ore. and in Vancouver.

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

“I was just amazed – it was incredible,” he said. “I knew I had to bring one to Washington. After that, it locates, designs and maps everything.”

Kirkland was eventually chosen as the site and they opened in December 2019. But they were closed at the end of the basketball season.

“You invest so much money and time in your business that you suddenly have to shut it down,” he added. “But there are still bills you’re expected to pay. Everyone gets hurt in that case. I wish things were different – that was the hardest thing.”

Now that they’ve reopened, he wants to regain momentum and show off his talent to anyone with a distant interest in basketball. He knows the customer well and knows that the technological aspects will bind them. The gym currently has a waiting list for new members, so it’s definitely ongoing.

“The technology provides players with instant feedback on what they are doing,” he explains. “When you become a member, everything happens through an app and you can check your progress. It’s a fun way to learn basketball – super interactive and a fun way to bring basketball to the Northwest.”

The majority of its members are elementary and middle school kids, and Shoot 360 has a foot in video games. It adds a physical component to the goals of scoring achievements and beating levels.

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

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

“Therefore, more facilities are important to enable children to learn the basics at a young age,” Giacoletti continued. “And in Rodney’s case, there’s someone in that community to look into who they are, and they’ve played at a high level in college and in the NBA. It gives kids hope and inspiration to be the best players they can be.”

Stuckey helped open the state-of-the-art facility in December 2019, but closed its doors on March 16, 2020. It reopened but closed again from November 17 to February 1, 2021.

It includes a full-size field and eight separate shooting and player development stations enriched with technology features.

“Everything went well and started working again,” he says, but still admits that they are not out of danger yet. “Everything is smoother now.”

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

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

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

Eventually, Stuckey chose EWU to play right away in a junior college, as EWU could sign those who didn’t qualify outside of high school.

“We had to follow NCAA rules, but that summer, Rodney’s condition struck a chord when it came to light,” said Giacoletti, who is now an assistant at Saint Louis University. “We tried to give him our best throughout the process. There were bumps in the road but in the end the plan worked.

“We could see him playing in his outstanding senior season because he had already signed with us, but that didn’t necessarily mean anything,” said Giacoletti, who led EWU to the NCAA Tournament in 2004 and subsequently left the head coaching position in Utah. “Before I left, I saw every top college in the country hire him. That immediately gave him a solution to play, but his plan to finally come East worked.”

Instead of going to places like Stuckey, Washington or Gonzaga, Cheney spent a year in Wash. on his own penny before he could even train with the team.

The dimes Stuckey spent would turn into millions of dollars over time as he continued to pursue his basketball dreams by playing in Spokane and making his home in Seattle, at any gym where he could find a game. At this point in his life, he was patient and not worried.

“It was easier for me because even though I couldn’t train, I could still be around the team,” he said. “I was still finding ways to play basketball and exercising and I had friends at school. I didn’t worry about not playing because I knew my time had come.”

Not only did Stuckey get good enough grades in the EWU to play for the Eagles in the 2005–06 season, he would eventually have 3.34 students at the EWU and earn Academic All-America awards for excelling both on the field and in the classroom. During his two-year career, where he scored 1,438 points in 59 career games, he won two All-America honors for his basketball acumen.

Stuckey took the stage to win national Freshman of the Year awards during the 2005-06 season and was named Big Sky Conference MVP and Freshman of the Year. As a freshman, he had 20 points and seven rebounds against Gonzaga, then 18 points and four assists against the Bulldogs a year later.

Stuckey was in the top eight in the NCAA Division I in scoring in each of its two seasons (24.2, eighth in 2005-06 and seventh in 24.6-2006-07). Despite playing just 59 career matches, he set 10 school records and finished fourth in career scoring at the EWU.

He had the option of transferring to a larger school, but Stuckey announced the 2007 NBA draft without hiring a manager. However, he quickly climbed on the draft boards, easily becoming the EWU’s best draft pick 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 include an assistant at Gonzaga and head coach at Drake. “He sat down, made an immediate impact, and then became a first-round pick in the NBA Draft after his second year. It couldn’t have been better for him.”

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