The Voter and Chen version of an embedded-atom model, derived by fitting to experimental data of both diatomic molecule and bulk platinum simultaneously, has been applied to study the locally stable structures, energies and growth patterns of small platinum clusters in the size range of N = 2-21. Using molecular dynamics and thermal quenching simulations, the global minima and the other locally stable structures have been distinguished from those stationary structures that correspond to saddle points of the potential energy surface. Ten thousand independent initial configurations generated at high temperatures (about 2600 K) were used to obtain the number of isomers and the probabilities of sampling different basins of attractions, for each size of the clusters. Their energy spectra have been analyzed. Comparisons have been made with the results of previous calculations using electronic structure and empirical potential methods. Although many of the lowest energy structures correspond to icosahedral growth, a number of new structures have been identified for N = 15, 16, 17, 18, 20 and 21. It has been found that the lowest energy structures are not always the most probable isomers for each size. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.