Former Augusta State star Siler rising in Phoenix

Former Jaguars standout has a year under his belt

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While he waits, Garret Siler possesses something he didn't have the past two years.

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Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry, left, demonstrates how center Garret Siler, right, committed a foul by holding one of the Golden State Warriors.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry, left, demonstrates how center Garret Siler, right, committed a foul by holding one of the Golden State Warriors.

The former Augusta State All-American center finally knows how to prepare himself during the off-season for the NBA. With a potential lockout looming this summer, Siler understands he can't lose focus.

"I want to be in this league for a long time," he said. "I don't want to take a step back."

Staying in shape will be the main focus for the 24-year-old Siler, who recently wrapped up his first NBA season with the Phoenix Suns. He played 21 games as a third-string center, but he said he believes he can move to backup center next season.

His NBA hopes depend on how hard he works on his game -- and his body -- in the coming months. He said he is unsure when the next NBA season will begin, but he expects to return to the Suns for the final year of his two-year contract.

"Now I know what to do, and I have the tools for it," he said. "It's a lot easier than last year.

"I know what I'm fighting for."

The past two years, Siler was a virtual unknown trying to take the next step from the collegiate ranks. After his last season at Augusta State in 2009, Siler played in the NBA Summer League and was the last player cut from the Atlanta Hawks' training camp. He then took a job playing overseas for Shanghai.

Siler played last season in the NBA Summer League and finally latched onto the Suns. He entered camp overweight, but made the team with his work ethic and determination. During the season, Siler ran 20 minutes on a treadmill before games. If he didn't see any action, he also ran after games. He can now run a mile in less than six minutes.

Siler's season saw plenty of ups and downs. He got shipped to the NBA's Developmental League, where he played three games before returning to the Suns.

On Jan. 10, Siler received word he had edged out veteran Earl Barron for the team's final spot on the permanent roster.

"I was just trying to keep my cool," he said. "They said, 'We have faith in you and believe in you.'

"I knew it was real when they gave me the health care plan."

The 7-foot, 283-pound Siler didn't escape the rookie hazing. He once dressed up as a Klingon during training camp. On team flights, he had to carry players' poker chips and unload their bags. Siler also had to go to the local store for candy or toiletries and buy Krispy Kreme doughnuts. All in all, he said, it wasn't that bad.

"If you try to be a good dude, that's half the battle," he said.

Siler's season highlight came when he met his heroes, Tim Duncan and David Robinson, in San Antonio. He also met Magic Johnson in Los Angeles.

Siler found Chicago to be one of his favorite stops. He savored deep-dish pizza, and the United Center, home of the Bulls, gave him chills.

"You hear that 'NBA on NBC' theme," he said, "and you start to wonder if MJ (Michael Jordan) is about to come out."

With teammates Vince Carter, Grant Hill and Steve Nash on speed dial, Siler is starting to come out of his shell and grow as a player. He not only attacks the rim, but he also has a shooting range up to 18 feet.

Siler will continue working on his game throughout the summer. He said he wants to be prepared to take that next step, whenever the next season begins.

Garret Siler's season stats

Games: 21

Minutes/game: 4.8

Points/game: 2.1

Rebounds/game: 1.3

Assists/game: 0.1

Blocks/game: 0.2

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Riverman1
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Riverman1 05/11/11 - 07:53 am
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I've followed Garret closely.

I've followed Garret closely. He had a great 10 minutes against San Antonio. It appears he is progressing nicely. He's smart and is going to figure it all out this year.

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