Augusta's Siler cheers his Suns on Atlanta stop

ATLANTA --- About an hour before Sunday's tipoff, Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry walked by and wanted to know the truth.


"Did Garret really shoot 68 at Augusta National?" Gentry inquired.

A little levity, along with a measure of patience, is helping Garret Siler move into the early stages of his NBA career. While his fellow Suns defeated the Atlanta Hawks in a 118-114 thriller at Philips Arena, Siler recorded a DNP -- Did Not Play.

"It was good," he said. "I just cheered on my fellow teammates."

Siler's night wasn't without action. After the game, he signed autographs and posed for pictures for a contingent of about 70 people.

Holly Carter, Augusta State University's assistant vice president for international affairs, organized a trip to the game. About 50 Jaguar fans sat in the upper deck, hoping to watch No. 20 play.

"It's really cool to know he's made it this far," Carter said. "I can't believe I know someone playing in the NBA."

The 6-foot-11, 305-pound Siler is making the rare move from playing on the NCAA Division II level to the highest stage of basketball. For him, that is not uncommon.

Siler became an unlikely All-American at Augusta State after starting high school at John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School and then playing a limited amount of basketball at the Academy of Richmond County his junior and senior years.

Siler participated in the Hawks' training camp last season before playing overseas for the Shanghai Sharks. Now, he's one of three NBA rookies playing for Phoenix. More important, he's on the Suns' active 12-man roster.

"This is my dream job," Siler said. "I'm just doing my best to keep it."

Siler didn't see action in the first three games of the season, but he played seven minutes Wednesday against San Antonio. He scored his first point on a free throw against the Spurs and registered a rebound and two blocks. Siler also matched up with 12-time NBA All-Star Tim Duncan.

"That's my idol," Siler said. "My first game to play against Tim Duncan, it's crazy."

Siler, who played 10 minutes in the following game against Memphis, continues to fight for playing time. Suns assistant coach Bill Cartwright said Siler has the potential to establish himself in the league, provided he continues to lose weight and improve his conditioning.

"The future is up to him," said Cartwright, adding that Siler has lost 20 pounds since joining Phoenix in October. "He's been terrific. He's worked his butt off. He's made great strides. He just has to get in good shape."

How much will Siler play this season? When starting center Robin Lopez and backup Channing Frye get into foul trouble, Siler will see action. If it's a fast-paced game like the Suns-Hawks tilt, he likely will sit.

Sheila Siler said this season resembles her son's redshirt year at Augusta State. Though Siler didn't play in front of his adoring fans and family Sunday, his mother couldn't have been any prouder.

"It's been such a blessing for him to be out there," she said. "It's nice to know he's had the patience and faith to get here."



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