Michael Stockton settling into basketball life overseas

By Wendell Maxey

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 7 2012 2:29 p.m. MST

Michael Stockton

Ges/Augenklick, All

NUREMBERG, Germany — It's fitting the one person wearing a crisp, white Utah Jazz T-shirt on a snowy Saturday night in Germany is Michael Stockton.

After years of answering questions about his Hall of Fame father and Utah Jazz great, John Stockton, the younger Stockton is nearly 5,300 miles from Salt Lake City playing professional basketball for BG Karlsruhe in Germany's Pro-A second division — a 15-team league also known as the "AG 2, Bundesliga."

Now, the former Westminster College point guard is making his own basketball career and finding his way in Deutschland.

"I really have no complaints aside from a few losses here and there," says Stockton with a smile.

"I do miss college, but at the same time this has been great. This is what I was looking forward to and expected, and at the end of the day you still expect it's going to be basketball."

Before signing to play in Germany last July, Stockton (who signed a one-year contract with a team option for the second year) and his dad talked about Michael's last four seasons at Westminster and how he went from playing seven minutes a game as a freshman to averaging 18.2 points, 4 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game as a senior.

"I just wanted the chance," he says. "It didn't matter where or what league. I said I would go anywhere."

Stockton's "anywhere" became Karlsruhe, a quaint city in Southwest, Germany. And now, six months after moving abroad and submerging himself in a new culture, Stockton is adjusting daily to the realities off and on the court overseas.

"The toughest part — I still don't know how to speak German and that bothers me to some extent," Stockton says. "I want to know what people are saying. All the guys on the team and the coaches speak English, but you go around town and people don't speak English. So when I do, people look at me like I'm an alien.

"The transition off the court has been a little difficult. You don't have those go-to friends like you do throughout college. Here, you earn that respect with your team. On the court, everyone wants the same thing."

Stockton, 22, is one of five American import players on a roster that includes Martin Samarco (Bowling Green), Domonic Jones (VCU), Justin Howard (Mercer) and Jonathan Moore (N.C. Central).

Mired in an 8-12 losing season, Karlsruhe ranks 13th in the 15-team league and although Stockton is averaging 11 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists per game in 20 games this season, he believes "there is room for improvement."

"I've done some good things, but I don't think I've even scratched the surface of what I should be and can be as a player," Stockton says. "I haven't scored it great or been spectacular in any fashion, but I think I've been solid."

Minutes after an away game in Nuremberg, Germany, an 82-80 loss for Karlsruhe, Stockton sat in a near-empty gym similar in size to Westminster's Behnken Field House and talked about his 10-point, three-assist outing. Soon the conversation changed from one love to another — Stockton's family back in Spokane, Wash., and his days spent in Salt Lake City.

"Usually after every game, I find a way to get ahold of them and talk. It's good to see them and hear their voice thanks to Skype and Facebook," explains Stockton, who also stays up for 2 a.m. starts to watch brother David play for Gonzaga and even some Utah Jazz games.

"I guess you could say I've been homesick because I miss my family," he says. "I miss my brothers and sisters, but I also feel I adjust very well."

Back in early October, John Stockton traveled to Germany for Michael's second and third games of the season against Dusseldorf and Kirchheim. A return family trip is scheduled for the final stretch of the regular season.

It's hard for Stockton to imagine his first year playing in Germany coming to a close in March. Until then, he keeps learning about life playing ball and living overseas and even himself along the way.

"What I've learned is I have a gift for survival and an ability to adapt," Stockton says.

"I'm just so thankful for this opportunity."

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