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6 Phoenix Suns For this rising young team, a journeyman banger will be pivotal

Oct. 27, 2003
Oct. 27, 2003

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Oct. 27, 2003

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6 Phoenix Suns For this rising young team, a journeyman banger will be pivotal

Say this about Jake Voskuhl: The Phoenix center picked a hell of
a time to take a star turn. During the Suns' first-round playoff
series against the Spurs last spring, Voskuhl channeled his inner
Bill Russell. In addition to playing assertive defense against
league MVP Tim Duncan, he hit the first game-winning shot of his
career (not of his pro career, mind you; the first since he began
playing organized basketball as a six-year-old) in Game 4. Sure,
San Antonio won the series four games to two and went on to take
the title, but Voskuhl's postseason dramatics changed the
trajectory of his career.

This is an article from the Oct. 27, 2003 issue Original Layout

A second-round draft pick by the Bulls in 2000, Voskuhl toiled
perilously close to the line separating serviceable journeyman
from waiver-wire fodder. Two months after his heroics against the
Spurs, however, Phoenix re-signed him to a three-year, $5.1
million deal. Then on Sept. 30 the Suns traded Jake Tsakalidis,
who started at center last season when he was healthy, and
another big man, Bo Outlaw, to the Grizzlies. Even before
Phoenix's other inside banger, Scott Williams, injured his left
thumb in training camp, it was clear that the 6'11", 245-pound
Voskuhl had earned a significant role on a promising team.
"Things just sort of fell into place for me," says Voskuhl, the
starting center on Connecticut's 1999 NCAA title team. "I've
worked hard, but I definitely feel lucky, too."

By his own admission Voskuhl has plenty of rough edges in need of
sanding. While he relishes contact and competes energetically,
his offensive repertoire is not expansive. (That is, he is often
left unguarded because he lacks a semblance of a reliable
jumper.) "I'm not where I want to be yet," Voskuhl says, "but I'm
getting after it." That's a sentiment that also applies to the
rest of the Suns. --L. Jon Wertheim

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER Jake Voskuhl

ENEMY LINES
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Suns

"They've always been considered a soft team with finesse players,
but they have an opportunity to change that image with their
three young stars--Stephon Marbury, Amare Stoudemire and Shawn
Marion, who has packed on a dozen pounds of extra muscle.... They
say they want to run, but I'm not convinced they'll stick with
it. Last year they tried to spread the floor by playing a form of
the triangle, but they scrapped that at midseason to run more
pick-and-rolls for Marbury, who felt he wasn't getting enough
touches at his favorite spots. I don't think he was being
selfish; he showed last year that he's ready to win by sharing
the ball, trusting his teammates, playing better defense and
playing hurt.... They dealt Jake Tsakalidis because he didn't fit
their athletic style. Until they find the right guy to help
against the Shaqs and Duncans, they're going to continue having
trouble defending in the low post. So they pressure the ball and
deny the pass inside.... Jake Voskuhl tries to overcome his lack
of strength by making you pay for everything you get. I warn my
big guys not to get frustrated by Voskuhl, because that's what he
wants.... Marion is the kind of guy that you fear because he can
beat you in every way. If he isn't crashing the boards, then he's
getting out in transition. He has quick hands, quick feet, he can
score from the three-point line or from 15 feet, and he's their
best defender.... All players are predictable to some degree, but
the difference with the good ones is this: Even though you know
what they're going to do, you still can't stop them. Last season
Stoudemire was stoppable, a two-dribble guy who almost always
went to the middle or to his right. They've been working with him
to go to his left so he'll be harder to guard."

FAST FACT

Besides Oscar Robertson, Stephon Marbury is the only player to
have averaged more than 20 points and eight assists for his career.

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
with 2002-03 statistics

Record: 44-38 (8th in West)
Points scored: 95.5 (13th in NBA)
Points allowed: 94.4 (14th)
Coach: Frank Johnson (third season with Suns)

JAKE VOSKUHL

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG BPG SPG FG% FT%
C 275 3.8 3.5 0.6 0.45 0.28 56.4 66.7

SHAWN MARION

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG BPG SPG FG% 3FG%
SF 7 21.2 9.5 2.4 1.17 2.28 45.2 38.7

STEPHON MARBURY

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG SPG FG% 3FG% FT%
PG 16 22.3 3.2 8.1 1.33 43.9 30.1 80.3

PENNY HARDAWAY

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG SPG FG% 3FG% FT%
SG 110 10.6 4.4 4.1 1.14 44.7 35.6 79.4

AMARE STOUDEMIRE

POS. PVR PPG RPG APG BPG SPG FG% FT%
PF 25 13.5 8.8 1.0 1.06 0.76 47.2 66.1

BENCH PVR* 2002-03 KEY STATS

G-F JOE
JOHNSON 153 9.8 ppg 3.2 rpg 2.6 apg 39.7 FG% 36.6 3FG%
F-C TOM
GUGLIOTTA 228 4.8 ppg 3.7 rpg 1.1 apg 0.52 spg 45.5 FG%
F [1]ZARKO
CABARKAPA(R) 251 11.6 ppg 4.8 rpg 0.62 bpg 47.7 FG% 66.7 FT%
G [1]BREVIN
KNIGHT 271 3.9 ppg 1.5 rpg 4.2 apg 1.25 spg 42.5 FG%
C [1]DEJAN
KOTUROVIC(R) 280 10.5 ppg 5.6 rpg 1.30 bpg 55.5 FG% 64.9 FT%

NEW ACQUISITION[1]
(R) Rookie (Euroleague statistics)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 94)