When the general public looked at the roster of the Gonzaga basketball team early last year, they saw a familiar last name—Stockton.
The son of Bulldog and Utah Jazz legend John, David Stockton was listed as a skinny 5'11" point guard. Immediately, the public bandied typical remarks of a player full of privilege over talent. A walk-on who was handed a spot on the roster because of his basketball pedigree.
However, once the season began evolving and the young Stockton began seeing more and more minutes for the 'Zags, the doubters had no choice but to believe in the budding star.
In his collegiate debut against Southern University, Stockton played 11 minutes while tallying seven points, three assists and zero turnovers. It was quite a showing for the redshirt freshman, displaying the steadiness and poise he would inject his team with for the rest of the season.
As the season rolled on, Stockton was nurtured by coach Mark Few, slowly handing him the keys to the offense. After the curtain closed on another Sweet 16 season by the 'Zags, the proof of his effectiveness was right there for the rest of the world to see. In 531 minutes of action, he committed just 37 turnovers.
His season averages of 4.2 points and 2.1 assists per game don't do justice to the effect he had on Gonzaga games. He was a player that Coach Few could trust to not turn the ball over, make clutch baskets and get his teammates the ball in the right spots on the floor.
Just like his father, he proved that physical stature was no match for basketball I.Q., skill and heart.
This season, big things are expected of the Bulldogs, and if they are ever to reach their undoubtedly high ceiling, their hopes and dreams rest squarely on the slender shoulders of David Stockton.
Now a seasoned sophomore, the coaching staff will rely on the Spokane native to be the catalyst who leads this experienced 'Zags squad to the promised land—the 2012 Final Four.
Surrounding the young Stockton is a roster chock-full of talent. Senior shooting guard Marquise Carter is ready to take on a bigger role now that Steven Gray has graduated.
Incoming freshman Gary Bell and Kevin Pangos are nationally acclaimed guard recruits, and don't be surprised if they both see minutes for the Bulldogs.
The frontcourt is definitely the team's strength.
The combination of 7-footers Robert Sacre and Kelly Olynyk bring a versatile mix to the team. While Sacre is relied on for inside scoring, rebounding and patrolling the paint on defense, Olynyk is an inside-outside threat, creating mismatch problems for opposing teams.
Rising sophomore Sam Dower is looking at a breakout campaign after the 6'9" 250-pound big man made the West Coast Conference All-Freshman team last year.
The centerpiece of the team, however, is preseason Wooden Award candidate Elias Harris. The 6'7" 240-pound combo-forward is coming off a season in which he averaged 12.4 points and 6.0 rebounds for the team. He is a front-runner for WCC Player of the Year, and David Stockton will be looking to get him the ball as much as possible.
With all of the weapons around him, there is a very real possibility that Stockton could earn WCC All-Conference honors as a sophomore, while leading Gonzaga to New Orleans and their school's first ever Final Four.
All great March teams need a standout guard to advance in the tournament of all tournaments, and this team has the right floor general to lead them there.
Combining his superb shooting, passing and dribbling skills with his conscientiousness with the ball, Stockton can help this WCC giant take the final step in their evolution from small-school wonder to college basketball powerhouse.
There would be no better way for David Stockton to finally escape the giant footsteps of his father than by leading the Gonzaga Bulldogs to hallowed grounds—college basketball's Final Four—something his Hall of Fame dad couldn't even do.