Just about everywhere Lewis-Clark State College guard Sam Stockton looked Friday, he saw a former teammate or a friendly face inside McCarthey Athletic Center.
At one point, Stockton was being guarded by former Gonzaga Prep teammate Anton Watson, a junior forward at Gonzaga. Joe Few, Stockton’s longtime friend and a former Bullpup, saw time late in Gonzaga’s 116-62 victory.
Stockton, youngest son of GU legend and Hall of Famer John Stockton, remembers Few attending his fourth-grade birthday party. Sam was teammates with Watson for five years in AAU and at Gonzaga Prep.
Sam became the fourth Stockton to play at McCarthey Athletic Center. Brother David and sister Laura are former Gonzaga point guards. Sister Lindsay played against the Zags during her career at Montana State. John and wife Nada watched Friday from their regular seats a few rows behind the scorer’s table.
Asked if he was amped up to play at the Kennel, Sam Stockton said, “That’s an understatement. I was so excited to play on this court, play in front of these fans, regardless if they were with me or against me. The energy of the Kennel is just different. I was glad to play here.”
In the first half, Stockton had five assists. Gonzaga’s team only had six, but the Zags still led comfortably 62-34. Stockton and Watson had a brief chat near the free-throw line during a break in the action.
“We talked about a couple of things,” said Stockton, who finished with two points, two rebounds and five assists in 19 minutes. “I thought I almost got him with a layup be he got a tip on it.”
Nobody interfered on a couple of Stockton’s best assists, but Gonzaga acting head coach Brian Michaelson certainly took notice. Michaelson took a few extra moments to chat with Stockton in the post-game handshake line.
“I’ve known Sammy since he was really little, since he was tiny,” Michaelson said. “I’m really close with that family and through David playing here. It was cool to see him out there and cool to see him play on this court.
“He did a great job. He’s remarkable. He plays with poise, gets others involved, he’s never overwhelmed by the moment. Some of those little things he throws – that back-pocket bounce pass – that’s a David and John special, so it’s in the blood.”
Gonzaga forward Drew Timme also took notice of Stockton’s polished passes.
“That’s one of my best friends, through ’Ton (Anton) obviously,” Timme said. “That’s like some extended family, their whole family has been so great to me. Anytime he’s in town, he always just stays at my place and we kick it a lot.
“He was really dishing that rock and carving up our defense so I was proud of him for that.”
Stockton grayshirted as a freshman at Gonzaga after finishing up at Gonzaga Prep.
“I was here my freshman year as a grayshirt, not really involved with the team,” Stockton said. “It was basically like a year off and I just wanted to get stronger and better.
“I had talked a little with (LCSC) coach (Austin) Johnson in my senior year but they had a pretty stacked team. That’s how it was with a couple of my options. So I took a year to get stronger and when that year was up coach contacted me again.”
Stockton played in 14 games last season on an LCSC team that lost in the NAIA national championship game. He was encouraged by the Warriors’ effort against the top-ranked Zags despite the lopsided outcome.
“I was just telling my teammates this is the weirdest I’ve ever felt after a game,” Stockton said. “I’m really glad and excited how we competed as a team, but we did lose by a lot. Going back into the rest of our season and in our league, I’m pretty excited with how we’ll do.”