PHOENIX — After entertaining a collection of first-round talent each of the past two days, the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday invited a group of draft hopefuls largely targeted for the second round for a workout, the team’s seventh in two weeks.
The Suns own the 50th overall pick in addition to three first-round selections in the June 26 NBA Draft.
On the practice court were Kansas power forward Tarik Black, Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft, Seton Hall small forward Fuquan Edwin, Florida small forward Casey Prather, Georgetown point guard Markel Starks and Tennessee power forward Jarnell Stokes.
All were seniors with the exception of Stokes, who decided to leave school a year early after averaging a double-double (15.1 points and 10.6 rebounds) and helping lead Tennessee to the Sweet 16.
“He’s a physical specimen,” Suns general manager Ryan McDonough said of the 6-foot-9 and 263-pound Stokes. “He’s maybe the strongest guy we’ve had in here. He has very good hands and feet for his size. He’s a very productive rebounder. I think there’s a lot of room for growth there.”
Stokes’ workout for the Suns followed a workout with the Miami Heat the day before.
“I’m a little behind right now,” he said. “I had to take a week off running because I got into a car accident on my way to the airport (and suffered a mild concussion). Just trying to work my way back into shape.”
Like many at his position, Stokes needs to improve the consistency of his outside shot, but added he’s “shooting the ball very well at the college three. I think the biggest thing would be from the (NBA) three-point line; just being able to hit that shot. But as of right now, I’m not too worried about it. I’ve always had a good touch and I’ve always had a good form so I know I can build on that.”
Craft may have been the most recognizable name among the workout participants.
A four-year player and three-year starter at Ohio State, Craft, 23, ranks second all-time in school history with 147 games played and 28th all-time with 1,314 points scored. He was twice tabbed Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
“Aaron has excelled at pretty much everything his whole life, on the court, off the court,” McDonough said. “He’s a winner. His defense stands out. His ability to run a team and get guys at certain spots stands out.”
Craft, who worked out previously with Atlanta and Utah, believes his experience serves to his advantage.
“I think I’m one of the more competitive guys out there,” he said after tying the Suns’ high of 28 trips during the three-minute conditioning drill. “I’m going to do whatever it takes to win, offensively, defensively; whatever it takes. That’s just who I am. I want to make myself better and the team better.”
For players such as Craft, that competitive spirit and the chip on his shoulder are things head coach Jeff Hornacek, a second-round pick himself in 1986, can relate to.
“I hear a lot of times they’re saying, well this guy is not that fast or he’s not that quick and I’m going, ‘yeah, but that was kind of me and I made it.’ So you try to look past some of those things,” he said. “Just the determination when you’re maybe not a well-known name that everybody talks about, you want to go out and prove yourself and really put it out there.
“It makes for good competition. These guys really competed today.”