Clutch plays and savvy passes? Must be a Stockton playing PG

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You’d think John Stockton’s son would be a natural point guard, and you’d be right. It just took a bit for him and Gonzaga to click.

It happened just in time, too.

Thanks to a big assist during the WCC tournament — from the offspring of the NBA’s all-time assists leader — the Zags are headed to the NCAA tournament for the 13th consecutive year.

“That’s why I wanted to come here,” Stockton told Ryan Greene of The Dagger. “I’ve dreamed about the NCAA tournament and watched the teams that went to the NCAA tournament and that’s what I wanted to be. Now that we have a chance to, I want to take full advantage of it.”

The freshman guard’s numbers in Gonzaga’s 75-63 win over St. Mary’s won’t blow you away (seven points, three assists and no turnovers), but he provided a spark every time he was in the game and was clearly the best distributor on the floor. At just 5-10 and 152 pounds, he’s smaller than his dad, but has the same knack for big plays.

His 3-pointer with 6:37 remaining capped an 8-0 Gonzaga run that effectively put away the Gaels.

“Stock’s was huge,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said afterward. “He’s got great instincts, a great feel for the game. Early on, he was a little bit of a defensive liability, but lately he’s been making all kinds of plays on defense. He’s always never feared the moment. That’s a great quality to have. He stepped up tonight and made a big 3.”

And it’s not like St. Mary’s overlooked Stockton. He had seven points and three assists in the Zags’ season finale win over the Gaels. When he’s in the game, he’s making a difference.

“When he comes in the game, the tempo of the game goes up,” St. Mary’s coach Randy Bennett said. “He’s a good passer. We didn’t do a very good job of guarding him tonight. Actually, that hurt us a lot. We didn’t guard him well and they got transition when he went in. We had it marked (on the scouting report), we just didn’t get it done.”

As you might expect, Stockton—who’s gone from former walk-on at his dad’s alma mater to key player — hears catcalls from fans because of his dad, but he’s heard them long enough that he now either tunes them out or keeps tabs on the best ones.

“I hear it from every crowd and every person, but I just can’t worry about it. I’ve been hearing that stuff my whole life, so I just try to embrace it rather than fight it,” he told Greene.

“The best sign was at Washington State. It said ‘Stockton’s Money = Stockton’s Minutes.’ That was my favorite one.”

As for dad, he tries to play the silent supporting role. John was in the Gonzaga locker room afterward, but didn’t comment on his son’s performance, mostly to keep David in the spotlight.

Classy move. Credit dad with an assist as well.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

As good as they’ve been, No. 3 Michigan State has yet to play their best

Bryn Forbes, Ryan Fazekas
Associated Press
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Sunday night’s Wooden Legacy title game matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence was billed as a matchup of the nation’s two best players, and rightfully so. Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine (17 points, six rebounds, five assists), who already has two triple-doubles to his credit this season, and Providence redshirt junior Kris Dunn (21 points, five rebounds, seven assists) have more than lived up to the preseason expectations and more of the same was expected in Anaheim.

And while both had their moments, it was Michigan State’s supporting cast that made the difference in their 77-64 victory. The scary thing for future opponents on Michigan State’s schedule is that Tom Izzo’s team is nowhere near being a finished product.

With Valentine dealing with first-half foul trouble Bryn Forbes stepped up, scoring 13 of his 18 points to help the Spartans take a two-point lead into the half. As for the 11-0 run that Michigan State produced to take control of the game late, a host of players stepped forward in regards to scoring, rebounding and defending.

Freshmen Deyonta Davis and Matt McQuaid combined to score nine points over the final 5:32, with transfer guard Eron Harris adding six of his 12 points during that stretch. The Spartans outscored the Friars, who aren’t as deep, 22-7 during that stretch to close out the game, hunting for quality shots and hitting the offensive glass while making things difficult for Providence on the other end of the floor.

The end result was a final margin that does not indicate just how close the game was. While Providence seemed to run out of steam Michigan State received contributions from multiple players, which is undoubtedly a good sign for this group moving forward.

The Spartans will return the currently injured Gavin Schilling later this season, giving them another big man alongside Davis, Matt Costello and Colby Wollenman. He was a player they missed Sunday night, as he can defend opposing big men both in the post and on the perimeter. His absence was a main reason Michigan State didn’t have an answer for Providence’s Ben Bentil (20 points, seven rebounds) defensively.

The key for this group is going to end up being role definition, which is especially true in the case of Harris. A transfer from West Virginia, Harris came to East Lansing with the reputation of being a big time scorer. He’s struggled through the first two weeks of the season, but he got on a roll on Sunday night, finishing with 12 points, three boards and three assists. He showed he’s capable of doing a variety of things on the perimeter, and fitting into a “Swiss army knife” kind of role would make Michigan State that much more dangerous.

There’s no denying that Michigan State has been one of the nation’s best teams thus far.

But there’s also no denying that the Spartans have yet to hit their ceiling, which is definitely a positive moving forward.

Wichita State’s Anton Grady returns home with team

AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.
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Wichita State forward Anton Grady was released from a hospital in Orlando on Sunday afternoon in time to return home with his Shocker teammates.

Grady suffered a spinal corn concussion on Friday when he collided head-first with an Alabama defender, snapping his head sharply to the side. He lay on the court motionless for 10 minutes after the injury and was taken off the floor on a stretcher.

[RELATED: Can WSU still make tourney?]

“I want to send out a big thank you to Shocker Nation and all of my friends and family for of the love and encouragement that I have received the past few days,” Grady said in a statement on Sunday morning. “I’ve been reading your tweets and posts and appreciate every last one of them. I have a lot of work to do to get back on the court, but with the help of such a great support system, I’m ready for the challenge.”

By Friday night, Grady had feeling in all of his extremities, but he has a long road of rehab ahead of him.