By KEN MAGUIRE Associated Press
Laura Stockton sounds perfectly happy to ride buses around Germany if it means she gets to play professional basketball.
The 23-year-old daughter of retired Utah Jazz great John Stockton spent the past year-plus rehabbing an ACL injury that ended her collegiate career at Gonzaga.
“I’m not picky,” she told The Associated Press. “I’m just ready for whatever.”
This kind of optimism must have been what John Stockton was referring to in his Hall of Fame induction speech in 2009 when he described Laura as “the kindest, sweetest warrior.”
Stockton has signed her first professional contract to play for Herner TC in the German league. Germany is familiar ground for the Stocktons. Three of Laura’s older siblings — all point guards — have played there.
“I really love the history, the old buildings, the castles,” she said in a phone interview. “I’m a big food connoisseur, so I love their food.”
Stockton cites spätzle (an egg pasta dish) and döner (meat cooked on a rotisserie) as her favorites from past visits, but she knows culture and cuisine come after winning on the court. Herner was the 2019 league champion and was 13-8 when last season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The team usually travels by bus to away games. It’s a far cry from Gonzaga’s private charter flights. Stockton said that’s no problem.
“Back in AAU that was the life,” she said. “We were all jammed into minivans and taking big road trips, so I’m used to that.”
In four seasons at Gonzaga, the 5-foot-8 point guard compiled 459 assists — third all-time at the school. Her father holds the NBA record for assists (15,806) after 19 seasons with the Jazz. He retired in 2003.
Laura Stockton said she doesn’t remember watching her father’s NBA games as a kid but has fond memories of the family room at the Delta Center.
“I remember taking pregame naps with my dad,” she said. “He would take a nap before his games and I would just hop in there, too.”
The basketball lessons followed.
“I’ve learned a ton,” she said. “I think the most important thing is the competitive energy and edge and what that can bring to your game. All of my family is like that. We’re super competitive and we’ll do whatever it takes to win and fight to the end.”
Playing against older siblings in the driveway helped, too.
“There’s no rules when it’s your siblings,” she said. “When you’re used to that type of pressure and physicality, it’s really not that difficult when you go out there on the big stage. You’re used to it.”
Her mother, Nada, who is a former volleyball player, is also “super tough and she doesn’t get the credit that she probably deserves.”
Stockton tore the ACL in her left knee during the West Coast Conference tournament in March 2019. She said she’s 100% now, thanks in part to 1-on-1 games with older sister Lindsay, who like older brothers Michael and David played in Germany.
Herner coach Marek Piotrowski said he has had nothing but good experiences with Gonzaga players, including Sonja Greinacher and Haiden Palmer. In a statement, he said he expects Stockton to be a leader on both ends of the court.
“He wants me to be a leader, control the pace, find players,” Stockton said. “The facilitating kind of comes naturally to me, and that’s obviously what the point guard is asked to do most of the time.”
Gonzaga women’s head coach Lisa Fortier said Piotrowski won’t be disappointed.
“Her club is going to be very happy with her,” Fortier said in a statement. “She is a competitor and a winner, and she always finds a way. I can’t wait to follow her pro career.”
Stockton is signed for 2020-21 — most European contracts are only one season. She plans to arrive there in early September.
Before the knee injury toward the end of her senior season, Stockton thought she might have a shot at the WNBA. It remains a goal.
“I’m always keeping my options open,” she said. “That’s obviously where the best of the best play, but right now I’m just excited to be going to Germany, having an opportunity at all, just after being hurt. I’ll take anything I can get. I just love to play.”