What to make of David Stockton? That is a question that many Gonzaga fans have asked over and over throughout David Stockton’s career. The fifth year senior has provided more than his share of frustration to Zags fans with his lack of size and his knack of turning the ball over due to complete brain farts. See Stockton’s blunder in last year’s NCAA Tournament loss to Wichita St. where we tried to inbound the ball after a made free-throw after the ball had already been inbound to him by Elias Harris. His lack of size (5 ft-11 and 165 lbs.) and athleticism make him a liability against NCAA Tournament caliber teams like Kansas St. and Memphis; teams that Gonzaga lost to this season because of his inability to defend or create offense against bigger players. His presence on the floor against high-caliber competition essentially made it a game of four on five in the other teams favor. Many Zags fans, including myself have been counting down the days until his eligibility finally runs out. The wait at times has been so long that it seems like he is a ninth-year senior. To make matter worse, Stockton’s short-comings are often masked in West Coast Conference play where the competition in general is not on par with teams like Memphis or Kansas State. As a result, he found favor with head coach Mark Few and was a starter all season and often played 28 minutes a game. He has been tabbed as a “hustler” and guy with a “great feel for the game with a great pedigree.” Those are often code words to describe guys that aren’t good but try really yard. Many, including myself began to wonder if his famous father was the real reason he saw the court so often. John Stockton doesn’t seem to be the kind of guy to pull strings behind the scenes to benefit his kids but at times it appeared like the only answer because his play simply didn’t justify the amount of minutes he played.
Then the West Coast Conference Tournament happened. Heading into the tournament Stockton’s presence as the starting point guard of the team appeared to put Gonzaga’s chances of winning another West Coast Conference Tournament Title at jeopardy. A team like BYU seemed poised to jump on Stockton’s turnovers and inability to see over players above six feet and snag the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. But then this happened. Yup, David Stockton saved the day against Santa Clara in the WCC Quarterfinal. Then he dropped 21 points, six rebounds, and four assists against St. Mary’s in the Semifinal. Then he followed that up with this blocked shot and four assists in the Final against BYU. Stockton finished the WCC Tournament averaging 11 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 1.6 steals and only 1.6 turnovers. He, along with Sam Dower (Tournament MVP) were by far Gonzaga’s best players in the tournament. He played like a man possessed, a man determined to redeem himself from all his past blunders. And at least for now, he did that. Thanks to Stockton’s performance, Gonzaga took home its 13th West Coast Conference Tournament title, giving it some good momentum heading into the NCAA Tournament.
But what now? What will David Stockton do in the NCAA Tournament? Was his performance in the WCC Tournament merely another example of his short-comings being masked by WCC competition? Will his solid play continue against a team like Memphis or Arizona? Or will he revert back his old self, out-sized, out-manned and out-played? For good or for bad, Gonzaga’s fate in the NCAA Tournament is unavoidably linked to the answer to that question.
Posted by Hatch