Every time Ohio State guard Tony Stockman takes to the court, it is a safe bet his mother will not be far away. Whether it is offering words of support or just lending a helping hand, Karla Stockman has always been there for her son.
She drove from Medina, Ohio, to Durham, N.C., and was there when Stockman, then a guard at Clemson, first set foot in Duke’s hostile environment at Cameron Indoor Stadium. That trip came only five days after driving from Ohio to Clemson for a game against Maryland.
She was there when her son hit a 3-pointer with less than one minute to go to help the Tigers defeat top-ranked North Carolina. She was there when her son underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair damaged cartilage to his knee during his sophomore season with the Tigers and she was there when her son first took to the floor as an Ohio State Buckeye.
“We have a very close family,” Stockman’s mother Karla said. “Through all the good times and all the bad times we have always looked out for one another no matter what the circumstances.”
Along with offering constant encouragement, it is his mother’s personality that can always bring a smile to Stockman’s face.
“No matter how things are going my mom can always make me smile,” Stockman said. “My mom and I are very close. She can always find a way to make me laugh. She can always manage to make me smile and she always listens to me when things are not going well.
“My mom is never someone that will criticize me. She will only help me and she really lends a helping hand in whatever I’m doing. She always helps me remember the good things that have happened to me.”
Stockman, who began his collegiate career at Clemson and was away from his mother for the first time in his life, would frequently speak with her during those years to seek advice throughout the season.
While at Clemson, Stockman’s experience in the Atlantic Coast Conference matched him up against some of the best teams in the country, such as North Carolina, Wake Forest, Maryland and Duke.
However, it was against Wake Forest and North Carolina when Stockman was at his best. During his sophomore season at Clemson, Stockman averaged 17.7 points per game against the ACC powers, while scoring 30 points against those two teams his sophomore year. Stockman’s 30-point performance against the Tar Heels during the 2001-02 season came with the aid of eight 3-point field goals.
Despite Stockman’s successful sophomore campaign, when he was the top sophomore score in the ACC, the Tigers finished the season with a 13-17 record.
Although Stockman was enjoying his time at Clemson he also noticed the affect being more than 600 miles away was beginning to have upon his mother, who routinely made the 10-plus hour drive from Medina to watch him play.
“I would take turns driving with my daughter, but they were still difficult trips to make considering that we would drive straight through.” Karla Stockman said. “Sometimes we would have to deal with the weather. In fact, on one trip we found ourselves stuck in the mountains of West Virginia during a winter storm. Overall, those trips were hard. I love South Carolina, but those trips just got longer and longer.
“It was not always easy getting off work and driving down to Clemson. I could probably tell you every single landmark on the way down there but after a while it just became very tough on all of us. Now with Tony at Ohio State things have become much easier.”
Stockman’s distance from home prompted him to transfer back to the Buckeye state where he had achieved so much success during his days at Medina High School.
While at Medina, Stockman was nothing short of amazing as he left an impression on Medina for years to come. As a senior, Stockman earned first team all-state, Medina Country Player of the Year, first team all-conference and also was named co-Ohio Mr. Basketball, while leading his high school squad to the round of sixteen in the state playoffs.
“Playing at Clemson and in the ACC was a great experience,” Stockman said. “In high school that was the type of stuff you watched on TV. It was really cool to play in that atmosphere and live out a dream.”
Stockman’s decision to move back home could not have made North Carolina fans any happier to see the Ohio native leave South Carolina. During his Clemson tenure Stockman torched the Tar Heels for more than 16 points per game in five career contests.
However, coming back to the state where Stockman had enjoyed so much success was not an easy decision, in that there was one major drawback. Stockman had to sit out the entire 2002-03 season in order to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.
Despite the prospect of sitting out an entire season, Stockman decided it would be in his family’s best interests for him to come back home. Stockman chose to transfer to Ohio State and play for head coach Jim O’Brien, a coach Stockman had much respect for through high school.
“Tony really respects Coach O’Brien a lot and I think that was one of the main reasons he came to Ohio State,” Karla Stockman said. “He knew if he came to Ohio State he could learn a lot from him and he is thrilled with the opportunity to play for him.”
However, sitting out an entire season was a concept Stockman had never dealt with throughout high school and college.
Fortunately, Stockman did not go through the experience by himself. Sitting alongside him during every game throughout the 2002-03 season was J.J. Sullinger, who transferred from Arkansas at the same time.
Sullinger, like Stockman, also endured the long arduous process as both prepared last year’s squad for each upcoming game as members of the scout team.
“J.J. and I really bonded a lot together last season,” Stockman said. “He is a guy who is always very positive and he is great guy to have by your side when things are not going well.”
“Sitting out last season was very tough on him,” Karla Stockman said. “It was really nice to have J.J. going through the same thing Tony was going through.”
In Sullinger, Stockman had someone who could relate to his situation.
“Having Tony along side me to go through the same thing I was going through made life a lot easier last season,” Sullinger said. “Sitting out was a new concept to both of us and it was nice to know that if I ever needed someone to talk to during the year I knew he could always help me out.”
However, the reality of sitting out the season was made even more difficult when Ohio State forward Terence Dials and guard Brandon Fuss-Cheatham went down with injuries, leaving the Buckeyes undermanned throughout much of the season.
Unable to help out their teammates in their time of need during the season made the process of sitting out even more difficult for the two transfers.
“Last year was so tough to just sit on the bench and watch,” Sullinger said. “Last year was like waiting on a Christmas present for a year. You could see it right there in front of you but you just couldn’t do anything with it. I think last year Tony and I just felt that we really could have helped out and not being able to play really made things tough.”
Nineteen months after declaring his intention to transfer from Clemson, Stockman has now suited up for the Buckeyes and has made the most of his opportunity.
With the 2003-04 in full swing, Stockman has shown flashes of his scoring ability, which he displayed at Clemson, where he scored 716 points in two seasons.
“Tony is a great player and it’s exciting to play with a guy who is so talented,” Sullinger said. “Sometimes I catch myself just watching him in practice because he is so good with the ball. He can make some unbelievable shots and sometimes you can get caught up into watching him play. He’s that good.”
Although Sullinger and Stockman have played with one another for more than a year, the 6-foot-5-inch Buckeye guard still marvels at his teammate’s ability on the court.
“It is so much fun to play alongside him,” Sullinger said. “I think the more we play together the better we are going to become and I think once we get on a pace it’s going to be nothing but fun.”
Although a year away from competitive play has slowed the Buckeye transfers at times, Stockman believes that his best moments in the Scarlet and Gray are still to come.
“Our team is still gelling together so it’s been tough for us to get things together but, I think the best part of the season has yet to come, we’ve had some struggles but we are still super positive,” Stockman said.
Stockman, who frequently relied on his mother for support during his days at Clemson, now has new means of support from his friends who now have the opportunity to watch him play.
“One of the great things about playing at Ohio State is so many people from back home can come to Columbus to watch him play,” Karla Stockman said. “He really appreciates all the support he gets from everybody around him. There have been a couple of games this season where he had a whole group of people in the stands cheering for him and that just really gets him excited to play every game.”
“Coming back to Ohio to play at Ohio State has really been an enjoyable experience and has been a lot easier on my family as well.” Stockman said.
Although Stockman’s mother is thrilled in her son’s decision to return to Ohio, her biggest thrill comes from watching her son in an Ohio State uniform.
“For Tony to be playing at Ohio State is just a dream come true,” Karla Stockman said. “It is just extra special that Tony is playing for Ohio State. Living in Ohio, the Buckeyes are the team that you always cheer for and to see my son playing in the Scarlet and Gray is just a great feeling.”