SPOKANE — The newspaper reporter, eager to get his first look at the son of Gonzaga basketball legend John Stockton, scanned the floor to see if he could pick out David Stockton during a Bulldogs practice leading up to the 2009-10 season.
The reporter wasn’t having much luck. After watching a scrawny kid heave an awkward-looking jump shot that barely touched iron, then racing after the ball as if a national championship was on the line, the reporter asked another observer if Stockton — a walk-on freshman at the time — was at practice.
“That was him,” the man said.
“That kid who just shot the ball.”
“That’s David Stockton?” the reporter blurted. “Honest to God, I thought he was a ballboy!”
Stockton still possesses a boyish face that makes him look more like a junior in high school than a redshirt junior in college. Gonzaga’s backup point guard is one of the smallest players on a Top 25 team at 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds.
Of course, that’s a substantial improvement from “probably about 5-7, 135” as a senior at Gonzaga Prep in Spokane. Stockton received exactly zero scholarship offers — many schools presumed he was headed to Gonzaga — and the Bulldogs and Idaho were the only NCAA Division I schools that invited him to walk on.
“I’ve always wanted to play at Gonzaga,” Stockton said. “To tell you the truth, I didn’t think I could.”
That changed during Stockton’s senior year at Prep, when he led the Bullpups to a fourth-place finish at the 4A state tournament. He redshirted as a freshman at Gonzaga, then earned a scholarship midway through his second year.
Stockton is well aware that some people presume his last name is the only reason he plays for Gonzaga.
“I think I have to prove that (is wrong) every time I step on the court,” Stockton said.
“I mean, it’s not about proving people wrong; it’s playing basketball. That’s what I want to do. If I do it the right way, I want people to see why I’m here.”
Gonzaga coach Mark Few labels Stockton “a fighter” and “a tough guy that can handle criticism — constructive criticism. He just comes back harder the next time. He’s really competitive.”
David’s parents (including mother Nada, who played volleyball at Gonzaga) have season tickets at center court for Bulldogs home games. Grandpa Jack and other relatives also are regulars.
David says John’s presence puts no extra pressure on him (“None,” he says) and his famous father is “extremely helpful” with advice when needed.
“He doesn’t say anything unless I ask,” David said. “He’s always stayed away from that because he doesn’t want us (David and his five basketball-playing siblings) to get burned out, because we were immersed in the game of basketball at a young age.”
Stockton, a marketing major who hopes to play pro basketball at some level after college, averages 18.6 minutes, 3.6 points, 3.1 assists and 1.6 steals per game for the fifth-ranked Bulldogs.
Gonzaga (25-2 overall, 12-0 West Coast Conference) could rise from No. 5 in the AP when rankings come out today.
“He’s got a great personality,” Few said. “Very engaging. The guys love him, the (coaching) staff loves him.”
Stockton joins a long line of basketball players who will never be as good as his famous father, but David and father John share some common traits. Both play with uncommon pride and passion, and David mimics his dad by standing erect with hand over heart during the playing of the national anthem prior to games.
“I’m just proud to be an American,” David said. “We’re out here playing basketball. There’s people out there fighting wars to protect our freedom, and people have sacrificed so much.”
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON