Be It Books or Basketball, Stockton Doesn't Like To Get Beat
On the court, Stockton was selected the GNAC Defender of the Year. Off the court, he earned academic all-conference honors.
On the court, Stockton was selected the GNAC Defender of the Year. Off the court, he earned academic all-conference honors.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


SEATTLE – It could be basketball. Or it could be books.

Either way, Riley Stockton doesn't like to get beat.

On the hardwood, the Seattle Pacific sophomore with the impressive hoops pedigree is the guy opposing offensive stars least like to see. The moment he takes his place around the center circle for the opening tip, they know points won't come easily that night.

“I don't want to be the reason they score, whether it's me, or helping out someone else,” Stockton said. “It's your guy – don't let him score.”

His ultra-competitive nature carries over to the classroom. As he nears the midway point in his pursuit of a business administration degree, Stockton sports a near-perfect 3.92 grade-point average.

So in which course did the 'A' prove elusive?

“It was either marco- or micro- (economics),” Stockton said.

“I wasn't too happy about that.”

Talented opponents will find a way to get some points. Some academic concepts will need a little more study before they're fully grasped.

But for Stockton, that merely becomes a reason to put out even more effort the next time downcourt. Or spend a few extra minutes re-reading that last chapter before an exam.

It's why he was voted Defender of the Year in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. It's why he earned a spot on the All-Academic team.

And he is a big reason why Seattle Pacific is the No. 2-ranked team in the country and is bound for Bellingham this week for the NCAA Division II West Regionals.

Stockton and his Falcon teammates, seeded third among the eight teams and riding the momentum of a last-second 72-70 victory against defending national champion Western Washington in last week's GNAC title game, take on sixth-seeded Grand Canyon in the first round. Tip-off in Western's Carver Gymnasium is at noon.

“We still have a lot of goals we have to accomplish and that we want to accomplish,” the 20-year-old Spokane native said. “We're not satisfied with just making the tournament, especially last year after losing in the regional finals. We were hungry to get there again, and want to win it, obviously.”

Inevitably, the question is going to be asked – and the answer is yes: Riley Stockton really is related to 'that Stockton.'

'That Stockton' is John, Riley's uncle, who starred nearly two decades for the Utah Jazz. He was half of the legendary Stockton-to-Malone combination that made the team one of the NBA's best.

John wasn't an eye-popping physical specimen on the court. But he thrived on his drive – something Riley picked up on very early in life.

“If I had one word to describe him, it would be 'competitor,'” Riley said. “The man loves to win.”

In fact, as he tells it, 'competitor' would be an apt description for every Stockton.

“We grew up on that word,” Riley said. “Me being the youngest (of three brothers), that was always the hardest thing. I was always physically dominated in those 3 on 3 games. Everyone ends up with bleeding. I had to learn to compete against them, or I wouldn't survive as a Stockton.”

That was just the physical part.

“If you ever showed emotion or cried or anything, the parents would almost get mad at you for being soft,” Stockton said. “I wouldn't be here without those games.”

John usually didn't take part in them, but often was there.

“He was more of the facilitator to make sure no one had to go to ER,” Riley said with a laugh.

Stockton's name won't necessarily be the first one that comes up when discussing the Falcons. That spotlight often falls on David Downs or Jobi Wall, maybe Patrick Simon or Andy Poling.

But the job Stockton does, he does very well. Not only is he the leading rebounder for the Falcons with 213 total and a 7.6 average, he's the leading rebounder in the entire GNAC. Of the guys averaging more than seven boards per game, all of them have at least two inches on the 6-foot-4 Stockton. He has led SPU on the boards in 21 of 28 games this year, including a career-high 15 at Saint Martin's on Feb. 21.

If Stockton ultimately wins the rebounding title, he would be the shortest player in GNAC history to do so.

And get this: While most would consider rebounding to be an individual thing, Stockton says even that aspect of the game is a team effort.

“Honestly, our big guys do such a good job of boxing out, me and Dave (Downs) get free runs at the ball,” he said. “They do all the hard work making sure the other guys (on the opposing team) don't get the ball. It's more of a compliment to them than anything else.”

Then there's defense. Stockton certainly can score when needed. He has five games in double digits this season, and averages 6.4 per game.

But he knows there are teammates who can pile up the points.

“I'm playing with four good scorers and Cory Hutsen coming off the bench,” he said. “Their talent level on offense is amazing. My biggest role is defense, and that's kind of where I take the most pride – not letting your guy score and winning that one-on-one battle you have.”

Other GNAC coaches noticed in voting Stockton as the conference's top defensive player.

“I'm kind of glad it happened. It validates what I do for the team,” he said. “I wasn't really expecting it, but it's obviously a real cool honor.”

Added head coach Ryan Looney, “With the system we run on offense, we need one guy who's willing to be completely unselfish, and he is that guy for us. He's the glue that kind of holds it all together.”

His teammates see both during practice and in games the kinds of contributions Stockton makes.

In their view, better that he makes them for the Falcons than for someone else.

“He's a nightmare for other teams, but I love playing with him,” senior forward Wall said. “He's such a competitor. He's willing to do whatever it takes to win, and he makes the plays when it counts.”

Added junior guard Downs, “It has been fun playing with him and watching him play on the defensive end. His defense and rebounding – it's that inner competitiveness and mentality he takes to every game.

“You want him on your team – he's tough to play against in open gym.”

Stockton – whose cousin, David, plays for Division I No. 1-ranked Gonzaga, the alma mater of Uncle John – is delighted to be on their team.

“The summer of my senior year (at Spokane's Ferris High School), I kind of said, 'If I can get recruited by SPU, that's where I'd go,'” he said. “I was lucky enough to go on a visit and play with the guys, and I really liked them. Both of my brothers played college sports, and one thing they said is you have to like the guys you play with.

“I found a real good fit for me.”

With regionals looming and two more seasons to come after that, Stockton has the opportunity to step up his performance even further.

“He impacts the game as much as any player in the conference right now – it just doesn't show up in the box score,” Looney said. “If you talk to other coaches around the conference, they're now starting to realize just how good a player he really is.”

How good he really is – whether it's basketball or books – comes down to one simple mindset:

Riley Stockton doesn't like to get beat.