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Jazz’s Michael Stockton shows grit in Summer League debut

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(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) John Stockton's son Michael, who enjoyed a breakout season at Westminster College, participated in a draft workout with the Jazz on Tuesday.

By Brian T. Smith

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Jul 09 2012 06:23PM
Updated Jul 10, 2012 09:39AM

Orlando, Fla. • Michael Stockton never expected this.

Not when he quietly attended Westminster College in Salt Lake City.

Not when he was learning the international game, anonymously playing in Germany last season and trying to prove to anyone watching he could make a living working on hardwood.

Not when he took on his father, John Stockton, as a child. The future Hall of Fame point guard always kept a sharp edge, and even family ties couldn’t sever the elder’s love of one-on-one competition.

So when Jazz Summer League coach Sidney Lowe looked at his bench with 5 minutes and 15 seconds left in the first quarter Monday, calling out Michael Stockton’s name and yanking starting point guard Blake Ahearn, the undersized 23-year-old who’s long been doubted went for it.

Stockton crouched low, found balance, and muscled up against Pistons point guard Brandon Knight — the No. 8 overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft and a former Kentucky standout.

Stockton soon drilled a step-back 3-pointer from 26-feet out, collecting an Enes Kanter outlet pass, never hesitating and quickly releasing.

The ex-Griffin poured in five points and dished out two assists in the first period, pushing the Jazz to an early 21-16 lead.

And when the son of one of the best point guards in NBA history suddenly crashed downward midway through the third quarter, collecting a hard foul that left Detroit’s Kim English limping and Stockton doing the same, the message was delivered: Michael Stockton belonged.

And if his five-game Summer League run is as good as it ever gets, he’s going to give it everything he’s got.

"It was fun to get out there and it was good competition," said Stockton, who finished with five points on 2-of-4 shooting in 10:14 during the Jazz’s 76-73 defeat to Detroit inside Amway Center. "I’m a little upset that we lost. But I think I did a good job going out there and playing hard."

The 6-foot-1, 170-pound pass-first point guard acknowledged he has no idea where his career’s going. Stockton said he’s under contract with his German team, BG Karlsruhe, next season and his Summer League roster spot with Utah was a complete surprise.

He ran through a 2011 predraft workout with the Jazz before initially heading overseas. But that session was attributed more to Westminster’s close proximity and his father’s legendary name than his own NBA-ready talent.

But the younger Stockton never settled. First, there was Europe. Then he caught Lowe’s eye during recent pre-Summer League two-a-day sessions. And while Knight statistically got the best of him, Ahearn ran the Jazz’s point for 17:57 and ex-Butler guard Mike Green guided a late Utah rally that had the Jazz’s mix-and-match summer team suddenly looking like its gutsy 2011-12 NBA self, there was just something about Stockton on the court Monday.

Grit. Hustle. No fear.

"That’s the way he’s been playing in practices," Lowe said. "His team has been winning the games in practice and he’s been running the show. He’s aggressive, he’s active.

"He did a great job for us [Monday]. He got in there and got us back in the game and got us the lead."

Stockton butted heads. He manned up. He used his body and speed and touch, sometimes being outpowered, but sometimes gaining an advantage.

Stockton played like Summer League was everything.

For him, it might be. Or it could be just the start.

"I didn’t expect anything like this, so I’m definitely very thankful to all the powers that be - whoever said, ‘Let’s throw him in there, ’ " Stockton said. "But definitely very thankful for it. So I’m going to try and make the most out of it."

Notes • Deron Washington topped the Jazz (0-1) with 13 points but the majority came during garbage time, as did Alec Burks’ 10. … Utah center Enes Kanter struggled throughout the game, was outplayed by Detroit rookie Andre Drummond and never asserted himself. Kanter finished with three points on 1-of-7 shooting, five rebounds and four turnovers in 28:15. … English led the Pistons (1-0) with 18 points.

bsmith@sltrib.com

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