This article was written by Sam Draut and originally appeared in The Louisville Cardinal on December 23, 2015. It has been republished with the author’s permission.
Coach Rick Pitino didn’t expect to rely on Matz Stockman this season, but that was before Mangok Mathiang broke a bone in his foot and Anas Mahmoud suffered a high ankle sprain, both injuries coming in the past week.
Mathiang, the redshirt-junior forward is expected to miss six to eight weeks while Pitino said Mahmoud could return by the Jan. 3 game against Wake Forest.
So, after the slew of injuries to the once bountiful Louisville frontcourt, Stockman’s role is not only elevated, but vital for the sixteenth-ranked Cardinals.
Without Mathiang, Stockman becomes the primary backup for the foul-proned starting center Chinanu Onuaku.
In Louisville’s 75-47 victory over University of Missouri-Kansas City on Tuesday night, Stockman was the first sub in for Onuaku at the 13:18 mark in the first half. The 7-foot center from Oslo, Norway finished with six points and two blocks in twelve minutes of reserve duty.
Last week against Kennesaw State, Stockman logged 11 minutes, scoring eight points and pulling down five rebounds.
Once believed to be more of a long-term project for Pitino, the sophomore’s development is needed for the team to continue to improve as it heads into its ACC schedule less than two weeks away.
“The more minutes we get for Matz, the better we can become,” Pitino said.
Earlier in the year, Pitino continuously praised Stockman for progressing and practicing well. Stockman said he has focused on basketball and tries to let the game come to him.
“I have been having great practices for over a month now,” Stockman said. “I feel very comfortable. I spent my whole freshman year learning the system. I go out and I know coach has a lot of confidence in me.”
While Stockman has shown flashes of potential on the offensive end of the floor this year, shooting 11 of 16 for 68.8 percent from the field, he is still learning the concepts of Pitino’s defense.
“I have gotten a feel for it, but there are still some small details I need to learn, sometimes I might mess up, but I am more comfortable with it,” Stockman said.
Fortunately for Stockman, he can benefit from the leadership and guidance of Mathiang, a post player in his fourth year at Louisville.
“Mangok is a great leader,” Stockman said. “He has talked me through it.”
Even after Mathiang’s injury, Stockman said the team captain would pull him aside during practices and tell him what he needs to work on.
“He would tell me the little things, like what to do, give me some tips,” Stockman said.
Now, out of necessity, Pitino will depend on a player who accumulated only 22 minutes during his freshman year and averages just eight minutes in six games this season.
“I didn’t expect him to play this year, but we didn’t expect to have the rash of injuries that we are having,” Pitino said. “So, we’ll look forward to that and keep developing him.”
Stockman said he has been through countless individual practices with Pitino and assistant coaches, so it seems live-game experiences are the final step in his development.
After compiling two solid performances against Kennesaw State and UMKC in the past week, Stockman believes the pieces are coming together.
“I was waiting to make more of an impact on the floor this year,” Stockman said.
The wait is over, because Stockman has become essential for Louisville’s frontcourt.