By Scott Eddy, Director of Athletics Communications
Courtney Stockard's journey to playing a key role with the Bonnies has been anything but conventional.
A standout at Allen Community College during his sophomore year, Stockard was the second-leading scorer in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference at 23.2 points per game and was named to the National Junior College Athletic Association Region All-Region VI Second Team as well as to the KJCCC West Division All-Conference First Team.
The St. Louis native then transferred to St. Bonaventure in 2015 where he expected to immediately make an impact on the court for coach Mark Schmidt and the Bonnies.
However, during a preseason practice, he suffered a broken bone in his right foot, forcing him to miss the entire 2015-16 season.
As the 2016-17 season dawned, Stockard finally was able to return to action. Then, misfortune struck yet again on the very first day of practice in a demoralizing twist of fate that saw him suffer a recurrence of the same injury.
A second season lost in cruel déjà vu.
"When it happened, I had been feeling it for a couple of months already," Stockard recalls of last year's injury. "I just thought it was breaking up scar tissue and that maybe it was normal for rehab. I had an X-ray done and they told me that a screw was bending and would eventually break and I would have to have surgery again. It was devastating and a humbling experience."
Though forced to the sidelines, Stockard took advantage of the chance to study the game from a different perspective while being an important part of the team as a supporter to his teammates.
"Watching from the sidelines slowed the games down for me, made my reads a lot easier," he says. "When you're playing, there's things you don't see that you're able to focus on when you're on the sidelines. It's like when you play chess, people tell you what moves to make, but you can't see it because you're on the board. The experience was tough but also helpful at the same time."
Finally, after two years of injury struggles, Stockard made his return to the court as the Bonnies began the 2017-18 season.
"It was a big relief. I felt like there was a heavy burden lifted off my shoulders," he says of finally being able to return to game action. "I've been with this group of guys for nearly three years; it felt so good to finally get out there with them."
Two weeks into his return, Stockard had his star moment.
With the Bonnies playing without All-Conference guard Jaylen Adams due to injury, the Brown and White seemed a long shot to upset Big Ten power Maryland in the Emerald Coast Classic on Nov. 24.
The Brown and White kept even with the Terps until the final seconds, however; the Bonnies were now without their second star guard as senior Matt Mobley fouled out.
The 6-foot-6 Stockard moved to the point, holding the ball as the clock ticked down under 10 seconds. He took advantage of a screen, driving the right side of the lane before scooping a shot over two Terps defenders. His layup fell with 3.2 seconds to play, sending the Bonnies to a thrilling 63-61 win on a national stage.
"Coach put the ball in my hands and gave me the green light. I knew I could do it," he remembers.
That moment came as the culmination of two-plus years of hard work, pain and disappointment. Stockard finally had the moment he had been working for.
"It was pretty touching," he says. "All the hard work paid off. After sitting out for two years, no one knew who I was and to have a moment like that, it is at the top for me. I have to rank that as my number one moment."
A valuable third scoring option for the Bonnies, Stockard averages 11.3 points and 6.0 rebounds while shooting better than 45 percent from the floor through 18 games played this season.
The Maryland win was part of an impressive 10-2 non-conference season that saw expectations soar for the Bonnies. After a tough 2-4 start to Atlantic 10 play, many jumped off the Bona bandwagon. The early successes have proven what the team is capable of doing – and the heights it can still reach.
"When we were winning we weren't paying attention to the noise, all the hype," said Stockard, who has another year of eligibility remaining after this season. "We knew we had adjustments to make even then. Now if we can get back to finding our identity on defense and running in transition we can control our own destiny. With the backcourt we have, the sky is the limit."
And though he has fought through nagging injuries since the preseason, if the Bonnies are to reach that potential this season there's little doubt that Stockard will be at the heart of the effort.
"I worked so hard to get where I'm at. To have some small strains hold me back, I won't have that happen," he emphasizes. "It took so long to get here and now that I'm finally ready I'm going to do what it takes. If it means fighting through pain to play then so be it."
Cameron Hurst '20 contributed reporting for this feature.
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