He is the big man, often seen wearing red, from way up north. Heâ€™s one of the stars of December. He is Matz Stockman. The 7-footer from Oslo, Norway. A sophomore at UofL, Stockman is making the most of his increased playing time this season. Like Santa Claus, he is delivering. Stockman scored a career-high eight points and pulled down a career-high five rebounds in UofLâ€™s 94-57 win over Kennesaw State on December 16. Cards Head Coach Rick Pitino is high on Stockmanâ€™s potential.
How much confidence have you gained early this season, getting playing time, and making an impact?
Getting playing time has been great â€“ knowing that Coach trusts me to put me in the game. I feel confident because my entire freshman year I spent learning from everyone. Learning all the plays in a different system. Now that I know them, when I get put in, I can just focus on playing basketball. I know the offense. I know the defense.
What have you proved to yourself so far?
I just think that I have gotten a lot more aggressive on offense. When I score buckets itâ€™s great to see my teammates support me. The most important thing, even if Coach yells at me, I just listen to the message, what he says, and take it to heart and learn from it.
He tells me every day that Iâ€™ve got to work on my defense, my defensive stance, so thatâ€™s my main focus right now and not worrying about offense.
What is the biggest sport in Norway?
Soccer, and skiing is number two and then ice hockey.
Do you ski?
I donâ€™t ski at all. I havenâ€™t skied since I was 12 maybe.
What other sports did you play growing up?
I played soccer. Started as a striker, and then I was a goalie. Then I actually played this European sport, hand ball, which I was really good at. Itâ€™s a team game and there are six players. Thereâ€™s a tiny goal and thereâ€™s tiny ball and you have pass it around and shoot it in the goal.
You havenâ€™t been home since you came to UofL. Has your family come here to visit you?
They came here for 18 days and visited me, and they stayed with some great people that I got to know through my girlfriend. They are very supportive of me, take care of me and kind of are like my American family.
Your girlfriend is a UofL cheerleader, how tall is she?
She is 5â€™2â€.
Coach Pitino, how big is Stockmanâ€™s upside?
Heâ€™s his worst critic. If he misses a shot, he gets really hard on himself. Heâ€™s got to let that go, get on to the next play. I think heâ€™ll not only be a starter for us â€“ I think heâ€™ll be a great basketball player. He has a very high basketball IQ. Heâ€™s a very good passer. The only thing heâ€™s doing wrong right now â€“ besides beating himself up a little bit too much â€“ heâ€™s got to react and stay in his defensive plane. Like go up and block the shot in his plane, not come over into somebody elseâ€™s plane. Good passer, good runner, very strong guy, heâ€™s still going to put on 10 pounds of muscle. IÂ think heâ€™s going to be an outstanding basketball player. Next year will be his year. This year, heâ€™ll help us win games, but next will be his year.
What was the recruiting process like to find a guy from Norway playing in Spain?
Mike Balado went to visit him and I saw him play in New Rochelle or Mount Vernon, New York, one of those places and he had a bad game. I use the same analogy as when I recruited Nazr Mohammed. I like the size, I like the attitude, the willingness to learn. I liked his hands, and I said, heâ€™s a project but a worthwhile project because you canâ€™t beat seven feet. When I asked the interviewer how many great players had come out of Norway, he named one. VT