Louisville had its first exhibition game Monday night, giving players a chance to get their mind off the college hoops corruption scandal that rocked their program among others this fall.
Back in Minnesota, former Louisville center Matz Stockman thought of his old team, but he made his Gophers debut in front of fans at Sunday’s maroon and gold scrimmage.
It was only a year ago that Stockman was with the Cardinals beginning his third season playing for Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino, who he still thanks for helping him mature as a player.
Since Pitino lost his job in wake of the FBI probe that uncovered it all, Stockman has kept in touch with former Louisville teammates.
“I try to talk to them almost every day,” Stockman, a 7-foot senior from Norway, said. “At first they were shocked. They didn’t know whether the player being suspended (Brian Bowen), if he was going to stay or had to leave, (and) who was going to be staying on the coaching staff. Now they’re back to playing basketball and having fun.”
In 2016, Stockman was part of the Louisville program that was banned from the postseason after the university self-imposed punishment following an escort sex scandal involving recruits. He said the Cardinals players are likely dealing with this situation the same way they did previously.
“We went through the whole (sex) scandal together,” he said. “I remember when that was going on we talked about this really sucks. But all we did was kept focusing on basketball. It didn’t really put us down too much. We just kept playing basketball and we had a good season.”
Stockman transferred this summer to hopefully get more playing opportunity with Pitino's son, Richard, at Minnesota. He’ll sit out the 2017-18 season, but Stockman will likely compete with 2018 recruit Daniel Oturu and redshirt sophomore Eric Curry for playing time at center next year.
“This year I’m going to get closer to my teammates,” Stockman said. “I’ll learn the playing style and adapt to that, because I know the playing style from Minnesota and Louisville are very different. When the season comes next year, I’ll be ready.”
In Sunday’s scrimmage, Stockman finished with four points, six rebounds and a block in 12 minutes. He is still raw offensively, but Stockman runs the floor well, is active on the boards and alters shots with his 7-6 wingspan.
He’ll be able to give posts Reggie Lynch, Bakary Konate, Jordan Murphy and Davonte Fitzgerald good competition in practice to prepare for bigger opponents this season.
“One thing I can really help them out with is coming from Louisville, they had a very defensive mindset,” Stockman said. “So I know every rotation they need to make, whether it’s zone or man defense and when to switch.”
Stockman’s often asked about his height since he appears at least a few inches taller than everyone on Minnesota’s roster, including 6-11 Konate and 6-10 Lynch.
Stockman was listed at 7-feet and 240 pounds at Louisville and is now with the Gophers. He says he’s 7-1. I’m thinking that’s without shoes. He was listed at 7-2 as a three-star recruit out of Canarias Basketball Academy in 2014.
I asked him if he shrunk since high school. He laughed, saying, “No, but you know how it is with (measurements).”