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Kragthorpe: Gonzaga's David Stockton back where it all began

Published March 21, 2013 1:05 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

When the Gonzaga Bulldogs are playing defense in the NCAA Tournament, reserve guard David Stockton will be reliving a childhood that called for pretty much the same job description at EnergySolutions Arena.

"Just running around, running amok, causing trouble," Stockton said Wednesday, remembering those mischievous days.

He'll have to do without Rollerblading around the arena, the activity that once resulted in a broken collarbone when he crashed into a soda machine and drew the wrath of his father. Let's just say John Stockton was none too happy about being summoned from a Jazz practice session.

Otherwise, David Stockton has good memories of the building where he took thousands of shots in his youth, the site of Thursday's game against Southern.

If there's pressure for Gonzaga to live up to the school's first No. 1 seed, consider what life is like for a Gonzaga athlete with David Stockton's bloodlines.

I mean, just imagine being constantly identified as a son of the former Nada Stepovich, the ex-Gonzaga volleyball player. Or as a great-grandson of Houston Stockton, the triple-threat halfback of the 1920s who's remembered as an early proponent of — what else? — the passing game.

Well, yeah, there's also the former Bulldog whose statue is on the ESA plaza and whose No. 12 jersey hangs in the rafters and whose NBA all-time assists and steals records are celebrated with another banner.

No big deal.

"I've always wanted to come play here, and I don't think there's any pressure," Stockton said.

Not now, after all he's done to establish himself in the program. Stockton attended Salt Lake City's St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School through sixth grade, before his father retired from the Jazz in 2003 and the family relocated to the Stockton headquarters of Spokane, Wash.

David played football (as a 130-pound option quarterback) and basketball at Gonzaga Prep, then decided that a walk-on offer at the nearby college was his best opportunity. But the part about becoming an 18-minute-a-game player who leads the country's No. 1 team in assists (3.3) and steals (1.6) as a redshirt junior?

"Not at all," he said. "I mean, I wanted to, and I was going to work hard to do so, but I didn't think that at all."

Responding to a question in a Spokesman-Review chat this week, former Gonzaga star Dan Dickau said, "David deserves all the minutes he gets. At times, he may need more."

When he was inducted into the Utah Sports Hall of Fame Foundation in October, John Stockton said what he most likes about being the father of athletes is having some credibility in one aspect of life that makes his children listen to him.

"He probably knows what he's talking about," acknowledged David, the third of four Stockton sons among six children.

And the Stockton traits are evident in No. 11's game.

"I go against David every day in practice, and I can see so many of the things that he has learned from his dad," starting guard Kevin Pangos said.

"He's fearless, like John," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "He has an incredible, innate feeling for the game that he can make passes into the smallest of windows. … He has a great knack, just like John did, off the ball on defense for making plays. It's uncanny."

In case you're wondering about him, approaching his 51st birthday next week, "John can still hoop," said Dickau, who occasionally plays with him.

For all of his greatness, John Stockton never took Gonzaga to the NCAA Tournament in the era of the 48-team field. The next generation of Stockton point guards hopes to join in something the Bulldogs never have done: playing in the Final Four.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribkurt —