June 24, 2004
SPOKANE, Wash. - Gonzaga University senior Blake Stepp became the fourth Bulldog since 1984 to be taken in the National Basketball Association draft when he was the 58th player taken Thursday by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Stepp was the 29th selection of the second round and the next-to-last player selected.
The two-time West Coast Conference Player of the Year and 2004 second team Associated Press All-America selection averaged 14.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg and 6.7 assists/game this past season for the 28-3 Bulldogs. His 640 assists rank second in school history behind Matt Santangelo and his 1,670 points rank fourth all time. He also left as the all-time 3-point field goal shooter in school history with 288 makes, surpassing Richie Frahm (280) who earlier this week was taken by the Charlotte Bobcats in the NBA Expansion Draft.
Stepp joins John Stockton (1984 first round by the Utah Jazz), Paul Rogers (1997 second round by the Los Angeles Lakers) and Dan Dickau (2002 first round by the Sacramento Kings who then traded him to the Atlanta Hawks) as other recent Bulldogs drafted into the NBA. Dickau was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers late this past season, Stockton ended a sure-bet Hall of Fame career when he retired following the 2003 season and Rogers returned to play in his native Australia without playing an NBA regular-season game. Rogers never signed with the Lakers and the Toronto Raptors later acquired his rights.
In trying to make the Timberwolves roster, Stepp will be joining a team that advanced to the Western Conference finals last month, losing a six-game series to the Lakers. The Timberwolves went 58-24 in winning the Western Conference Midwest Division and the No. 1 conference seed into the playoffs.
Stepp will battle five veteran guards on coach Flip Saunders squad - starting point guard Sam Cassell (19.8 ppg, 7.3 assists/game) and starting shooting guard Trenton Hassell (5.0 ppg); reserve point guards Troy Hudson (29 games and 17.3 minutes/game during the regular season) and Darrick Martin (16 games and 10.8 minutes/game), and reserve shooting guard Fred Hoiberg (79 games and 22.8 minutes/game). Also in the mix is guard/forward Latrell Sprewell who started all 82 regular-season games and averaged 16.8 ppg.
The Timberwolves are led by 2004 NBA Most Valuable Player Kevin Garnett who averaged 24.2 ppg and 39.4 minutes/game.