By Scott Eddy, Director of Athletics Communications
Courtney Stockard is a man of faith.
From a young age, his family taught that everything happens for a reason – even when that purpose seems impossible to see.
But after losing his first two seasons at St. Bonaventure following foot injuries in preseason practices even his faith was tested.
First, he was forced to watch the 2015-16 season from the sidelines when a broken bone ended his debut year before it could begin. Then, when his comeback tour seemed on track after a year of working his way back, an aggravation of that initial injury left him at square one and wondering what the future held.
Two years passed without any game action before Stockard could finally wear the Bonnies jersey for the first time.
"I definitely had to question God a few times and wonder why those things were happening to me," he recalls.
Fast forward two more years and Stockard's Bonaventure redemption story is complete after a magical run to the NCAA Tournament and First Four win last season followed by Atlantic 10 First Team honors this year.
"It would've been easy to give basketball up, but I've always been determined. That goes back to the household I grew up in," he says. "My mom explained that everything happens for a reason and once I realized that, I was able to grow not only as a player, but as a human being."
The hardships just made the 2017-18 season all the sweeter – not only for Bonnies fans who watched their team win 26 games including an NCAA Tournament triumph – but for Stockard who was a central piece to that success.
When he arrived on campus at St. Bonaventure two years prior, he was seen as a potential X-factor to a growing team that boasted NCAA Tournament aspirations.
"When I first got here, we had a pretty good team. A young Jaylen Adams, Marcus Posley, Dion Wright. I was supposed to be another piece to that team – that team should've gone to the NCAA Tournament," he said. "But after the injury, that first year looking from the outside helped me develop my game and know where I needed to get to."
Watching games from the sidelines gave Stockard an unexpected benefit to a cruel twist of fate. Though the two years of rehab and battle to get back on the court provided an unexpected set of challenges, it also helped him for his eventual return – he now saw the game in a different light and the advice of coaches suddenly clicked in ways it hadn't before.
"It allowed me to study the game more. I watched a lot more film and it helped take my game to another level," he emphasized.
By the time the 2017-18 season dawned many outside the program were focused on other elements to the roster – the backcourt of Adams and Matt Mobley drew the majority of the attention. After two seasons lost to injury, Stockard was an unknown commodity to Bona fans.
But by season's end, the Bonnies could never have achieved the heights of 26 wins highlighted by the program's "forever win" over UCLA without Stockard. Proving himself to be much more than just a complimentary piece, Stockard was the star in the UCLA win with 26 points in front of a national audience, putting the exclamation mark on what was a tremendous first healthy season in Brown and White.
That night in Dayton not only was one that won't be forgotten by any Bonnies fan – it was also when Stockard's road back came full circle.
"It was a burden being lifted off my shoulders; the journey and everything I had to go through," he says.
This year, Stockard was the elder statesman of a largely young Bona roster and he finally had the showcasing role to himself. He averaged over 15 points per game and earned First Team All-Atlantic 10 honors, receiving recognition as one of the A-10's top players and leaves SBU averaging 14.2 points and 6.0 rebounds for his career.
He also took over a mentorship role for the program's freshmen, a group he sees a world of potential for.
"I can't even explain how proud I am of the young guys," he said. "This group of freshmen are some of the hardest-working group of guys I've ever been around. The sky is the limit for those guys; these next few years are going to be something special for them."
A month removed from the end of his final collegiate season, the spring has offered a chance for Stockard to work toward his next goal of playing professionally. Through the process he has had the chance to lean on some of his former teammates who have taken the road previously – as well as put the lessons learned over the last four years to use as well.
"Coach Schmidt is a bit of a basketball genius," Stockard says with a smile. "Once you get to this level it is important to be prepared and he has done a great job of instilling that preparation in us."
Where the journey leads next is unclear. Stockard will go through the pre-draft preparations for the NBA in hopes of landing with a team this summer. He also knows that several lucrative deals could await overseas. Regardless of what comes next, he appreciates the road he has taken to this point and those in the Bonaventure community whose backing never wavered through the ups and downs.
"When I was down the first two years it would've been easy to hang basketball up and move on with my life, but the fan support really helped me," he said. "I just want to say a big thank you for the unconditional love and non-stop support. Playing in the Reilly is like no other."
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