Yesterday marked the first day of the Suns Summer Camp, and while I certainly enjoyed my time out there shooting video, it sure feels good to get out of the heat.

Stoudemire’s summer sessions in 2006, helped him to another All-Star appearance in 202007.
(NBAE Photos)

Making their way out as guests to the camp were the newest members to the Phoenix Suns roster, rookies Alando Tucker and DJ Strawberry. It worked out well as you couldn’t have asked for two guys more excited to be spending time with the kids. Of course I’m sure it also felt good for them to get away from the press conference podiums and back around basketball as well. I’ve had time now to talk with each of the two rookies and think both will be great fits for the organization.

Strawberry, while soft spoken, got along really well with the kids once he got more comfortable in his environment. As time went on, he got pretty vocal whenever one of the kids took Tucker to school. I joked with Steven Koek, “I thought we got this guy cause he could play defense.”

While we did draft Tucker in large part because of his ability to guard perimeter players, there is certainly more to the Wisconsin Badger than meets the eye (you knew I was getting a Transformer reference in there at some point). Tucker is quick, smart and experienced. He is also a lot better a shooter than people realize.

On Friday, I had the opportunity to speak with Tucker one-on-one for an article I was working on for Suns.com. I’d done a lot of research on his collegiate career and asked him about the improvement his shooting saw throughout the years. To be honest, I was hoping maybe he could refer me to a specific cereal or magical refreshment beverage which could improve my game, but I wasn’t so lucky. Tucker’s response was simple:

“When I came from high school I was a perimeter player, but when I went to Wisconsin, I felt it better to play a four down low. Because of that, I spent so much time in the post that it ended up being a struggle adjusting when I was back on the perimeter. As I continued playing outside, though, the more and more confidence I got and the better I felt. Of course, it always helps putting in a lot of practice off the court, too.”

Practice is something I don’t see being a problem for either rookie as both are in love with the game of basketball. I’ve never been big on watching the Summer League, but will definitely be tuned in the upcoming weeks to see how these guys do.

Of course there is also some interest in seeing this Greg Oden guy I keep hearing about (I think he’s a center or something, I’m not sure) and some guy named Kevin Durant (who probably only did as well as he did in college having Vince Young as a teammate). All jokes aside, Corey Brewer who went to Minnesota and Al Thornton who will be playing for the Clippers will also make things interesting as far as rookies go.

The Summer League isn’t reserved for only NBA freshmen, however. Orlando’s Dwight Howard and Phoenix’s Amaré Stoudemire and Leandro Barbosa have participated as non-rookies and things turned out fairly well for them. Howard is obviously one of the league’s top players, while STAT used the 2006 Vegas Summer League to rehab the knee injuries which forced him to miss most of the previous season. The “Brazilian Blur” meanwhile participated in both the 2004 and 2005 versions of basketball summer school and eventually sped his way to the 202007 Sixth Man of the Year Award.

For the most part though, the summer league is about the rookies. And with a draft class consisting of names like Oden, Durant, Tucker and Strawberry; it certainly should be a lot of fun to watch.