After long journey, Matz Stockman is getting a chance to contribute at Minnesota

The 7-foot center is playing a key role off the bench this season.

Senior Matz Stockman shoots the ball on Monday, Nov. 12 at Williams Arena. The Gophers beat the Utes 78-69.

Tony Saunders

Senior Matz Stockman shoots the ball on Monday, Nov. 12 at Williams Arena. The Gophers beat the Utes 78-69.

Nick Jungheim

Redshirt senior Matz Stockman’s journey to Minnesota has spanned multiple continents, countries and universities. Now in his final season of eligibility, Stockman is getting more playing time than ever before in his college career.

Before the season, few outside the program expected much from the 7-foot-tall center. He figured to play limited minutes behind redshirt sophomore Eric Curry and freshman Daniel Oturu. However, Curry suffered a knee injury before the season and is yet to return to the court. In his absence, Stockman has gotten the opportunity to contribute significant minutes off the bench in relief of Oturu.  

“He’s been good,” head coach Richard Pitino said. “I thought was really good. When you have [Curry] down, it’s a blessing in disguise for guys like [freshman] Jarvis [Omersa], [Oturu] and [Stockman], who can play more minutes. I thought [Stockman] came in and brought value.”

Stockman’s path to where he is now has perhaps more twists and turns than anybody else on the team. His home town of Oslo, Norway, is further away from the Twin Cities than any other player’s home on the roster.  

Before coming to the United States for college, Stockman went to play in Spain. He attended Canarias Basketball Academy in the Canary Islands, where he was teammates with former Minnesota player Gaston Diedhiou. 

To begin his college career, Stockman committed to the University of Louisville. There, he played under Pitino’s father, Rick Pitino. Having played under both father and son gives Stockman the unique ability to compare and contrast each coach’s style.

“Rick Pitino, he put a great deal of emphasis on defense and having deflections,” Stockman said. “His son has a little bit of a different philosophy, he doesn’t put as much of an emphasis on trying to be active with the hands.”

Stockman transferred to Minnesota following his junior season. He sat out the 2017-18 season due to NCAA transfer rules. He then left the team to focus on academics. Stockman planned on completing his degree and then transferring to the University of California as a grad-transfer. However, he wasn’t able to graduate. Luckily, Minnesota had an extra scholarship available for the 2018-19 season which Pitino offered to Stockman.  

“It was one of those situations where we had a scholarship [and] fortunately didn’t give it away,” Pitino said. “He would have been out of luck if we didn’t have that. It worked out really well that he was able to stay.”

Staying in maroon and gold has proved to be a positive for Stockman. So far, he’s averaging a career-high 12.6 minutes per game for Minnesota in Curry’s absence.

“I’m glad that I got to stay here now because I trust Pitino,” Stockman said. “He’s a great guy and he’s giving me good opportunities that I’m able to take advantage of. I’m happy to be here.”

Stockman has also added plenty of value off the bench for Minnesota. He’s provided quality minutes at the center position, an area where the team has lacked depth over the past few seasons.

“[Stockman] has been playing really well in that role,” said senior Jordan Murphy. “Being able to come off the bench and give valuable minutes just by rebounding, by blocking shots, affecting shots, guarding centers is something very valuable to us.”

Following their first loss of the season to Boston College on Monday, Stockman and the Gophers return to Minneapolis for their next game. They will take on Oklahoma State on Friday at U.S. Bank Stadium.