Hometown Report

Sac State’s Eric Stuteville takes work ethic to new level

Sacramento State center Eric Stuteville (44) passes the ball to a teammate during practice at Sac State on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016, in Sacramento.
Sacramento State center Eric Stuteville (44) passes the ball to a teammate during practice at Sac State on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016, in Sacramento. aseng@sacbee.com

Brian Katz has an issue with his big man.

The veteran Sacramento State basketball coach is plotting extreme measures to deliver a point. They may include the coach arriving at work armed with plywood, hammer and nails to barricade the gym doors. Katz can’t seem to keep out his 6-foot-11 center, Eric Stuteville, whose relentless quest to improve and stay sharp never dulls, even when his legs ache.

“I deal with a problem every coach in the country would love to have,” Katz said with a laugh. “ ‘Eric, Eric! Listen to me! You can’t be in the gym today! Stay away!’

“He doesn’t like to take a day off. His ability to handle a huge workload is unlike anything I’ve seen. He’s the epitome of a guy who is self- motivated. He doesn’t need a coach to stand over him. I have to tell him to stay out of the gym when we have an off day because big guys need to rest and recover. Eight months out of the year? Not a problem. But we need Eric fresh in February and March.”

Stuteville is playing the best ball of his career, at times carrying the Hornets on his regal frame in the paint as they try and muscle their way into next month’s Big Sky Conference tournament.

The senior from Casa Roble High School produced 22 points and 10 rebounds in a 77-74 victory over first-place Weber State last Thursday, and he went for 18 and 16 in a 75-63 triumph over Idaho State in front of another full and festive crowd at the Nest.

Those totals dwarf Stuteville’s season averages of 12.0 points and 6.3 rebounds.

The 16 rebounds represented a career high and rank as the fourth-best single-game mark since the Hornets joined the Division I ranks in 1991. Stuteville grabbed 14 offensive rebounds in the two contests to earn conference Player of the Week honors. And more praise from his coach, who labels Stuteville as a classic late bloomer.

“Who gets that many offensive boards? People just don’t,” Katz said. “Eric’s a monster, such a hard worker. No one spends more time on his game, and it’s all coming together for him. It’s great to see how far he’s come. He had a fadeaway jumper on the baseline the other night. He’s getting to the foul line, and he leads the conference in field-goal percentage (67.3). But I have a serious problem with him.”

Someone please steer Stuteville to the nearest couch with a mandate to relax.

“Eric’s driven,” Katz said. “I’m not sure I’ve been around anyone as driven as him, and I’ve had some great players. His is more of an obsession. He’s a workhorse. You can’t wear him out, can’t get him tired. He’s like a sled dog that goes until they drop.”

The Hornets head to snow country this week, Stuteville leading the charge. Sac State (9-14, 6-6) plays at Montana and Montana State on Thursday and Saturday, respectively, having split with those teams at home.

Fast riser Solomon Young, The Bee’s Player of the Year last season out of Sacramento High, has gone from reliable reserve to starter at Iowa State.

The 6-foot-8, 240-pound forward got his first start in a win against Oklahoma State and will remain in the lineup the rest of the way, coach Steve Prohm said during his Monday news conference. Young provides interior toughness with the ability to score, rebound, block shots and run the floor.

Said Prohm, “Solomon has stayed the course. I came into the office and said, ‘I’m starting Solomon.’

“I’ve thought about it before, and probably kicked myself a little bit. He’s been really good for us when he’s played extended minutes. That’s the one thing you’ve got to do with a freshman. You’ve got to let them play through mistakes. They’re going to make mistakes, but what he brings to the table for this team is what we need at that position.”

Joe Davidson: 916-321-1280, @SacBee_JoeD