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Jared Dudley's Unusual Style Of Play Fits Nicely With Phoenix Suns

Jared Dudley is an unusual player for the Phoenix Suns, but as the former Boston College basketball star is proving, being unusual isn't always a bad thing.

The recipe for success in basketball is usually pretty simple - master the fundamentals, immerse yourself in the game and have a team-first mentality. Do all of those things, and you'll find yourself having a pretty successful career - just like the one that former Boston College star Jared Dudley is having.

Dudley, who plays with the Phoenix Suns, isn't your average forward. Quite the opposite, really.

He's not considered to be one of the leagues premier players and is generally overlooked as a sixth man, but he's a career 46.8 percent shooter (and a career 41.2 percent shooter from three-point range) and can match wits with the the best players in the league defensively.

In truth, he's just an unusual player. But for Dudley, being unusual isn't a bad thing.

"I think that he is one of the most unusual guys in the league," said Suns head coach Alvin Gentry. "I don't know how he does it. We spend a lot of time trying to verbalize what he does, but he just wins for you. He finds a way to make shots, he finds a way to defend quicker, stronger guys, he finds a way to run out and get easy baskets.

"I really am at a loss to describe exactly how he does it. He just gets it done. I just think he's one of those guys whose team wins most of the scrimmages, shooting games and things like that. That's just kind of who he is."

Dudley is in his fourth season with the Suns and has really blossomed in his last two campaigns. After being drafted in the first round by the Charlotte Bobcats and never averaging more than 5.8 points, Dudley was shipped to the Suns where he began to hit his stride. In the last two seasons in Phoenix, Dudley is averaging over 10 points and around four rebounds.

Even when he isn't scoring, Dudley can still be productive. In the Suns' win over the Knicks on Wednesday, Dudley only attempted one shot and didn't score a point, but still contributed to the game in the eyes of a lauding Gentry.

"I still think he did some good things," Gentry said. "He didn't shoot the ball well, but he'll shoot it much better than he's shooting it now. There's so many intangible things that I think, that's thrown out there so many times about the intangibles, but he really is a guy that you just can't ever look at a box score and measure what he does for your team. He's been that way since he got there."

How does Dudley do it? Well, for starters, it's all about knowing what his team needs from him.

"I just try to use what I've been born with, use my IQ and feed off other players," Dudley said. "On this team, I know they need energy, shooting and being smart about small stuff like charges. Just trying to be at the right place at the right time, trying to see the play develop before it does. A lot of time you can outwork people, even in the NBA."

Right now, his team needs bench production. Dudley has started 13 games this season, but has not started in the Suns' last two games. Instead, Gentry has opted to use Dudley as a spark plug off the bench, which is a role that both parties are embracing.

"I'm not starting him, but it has nothing to do with him," said Gentry. "It's not a demotion at all. Really what I'm asking him to do is, you know, he almost has to be a shot in the arm for the second team. I'm putting him there hoping he can help that group, because we've been pretty anemic from the standpoint of scoring and what we've done on that group. He and Channing Frye to that group doesn't have anything to do with a demotion. I'm counting on them to help me in that department."

"I'm not content, but I'm definitely happy," Dudley said about his career progression. "Someone who was drafted in the first round who is now in the rotation, I play everyday. Before last game I had started [13] games, last year I started 15. I'm trying to continue to improve and I can definitely see me taking another step in my career. It's usually by the fourth, fifth year when you start understanding the whole NBA and what you can do, and that is the point I'm at now in my career."

As he continues to develop, it's only natural to want to take that next step that he's talking about. For Dudley, that could be starting consistently - a thought he pondered very carefully when asked prior to Friday's game against the Celtics.

"That's a good question," Dudley said when asked if he's happy with coming off the bench. "I think for every situation, it's different. For this team, I prefer to start, but I'm someone who is professional and will play any role they want me to play. If coach wants me to be on the second unit helping out, I'm more than happy to do that for him. If he tells me to run through a wall, I'll run through a wall for him."

"The thing about JD is that he will accept anything that's team related," Gentry said. "It doesn't matter what you've asked him to do. I've asked him to guard Kobe [Bryant], I'll ask him to guard David West, I'll ask him to guard Tony Parker and he'll do the absolute best job that he possibly can and be pretty efficient about it."

Dudley did exactly what Gentry wanted him to do on Friday, scoring 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting in 21 minutes off the bench. With an aging Suns team and Dudley locked up for four more seasons, the future is bright for the 26-year-old.

If he plays his cards right, Dudley can carve out a permanent role as a starter as the team transitions away from veterans like Steve Nash and Grant Hill and looks towards the future.

And there's nothing unusual about it.