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Gophers glad to see backup center Matz Stockman asserting himself

MINNEAPOLIS -- When Gophers backup center Matz Stockman split two Texas A&M defenders for a powerful dunk in Minnesota's 69-64 victory over the Aggies on Sunday, Nov. 18, in the Vancouver Showcase, it was something his teammates had seen before.

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MINNEAPOLIS -- When Gophers backup center Matz Stockman split two Texas A&M defenders for a powerful dunk in Minnesota’s 69-64 victory over the Aggies on Sunday, Nov. 18, in the Vancouver Showcase, it was something his teammates had seen before.

But only a few times.

When the 7-foot senior from Oslo, Norway, dunked during a Gophers practice last week, well, that did catch people in the program off guard.

“Everybody was kind of surprised because Matz doesn’t have that personality,” coach Richard Pitino said Friday.

With forward/center Eric Curry sidelined with a knee injury, the Gophers have turned to Stockman to provide depth behind freshman center Daniel Oturu and alongside freshman forward Jarvis Omersa.

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Stockman is averaging 6.3 points and 3.3 rebounds in 13 minutes per game heading into Tuesday’s game between the Gophers (3-0) and Santa Clara (0-3) in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“It’s very, very important for him to be able to come in and bring value,” Pitino said. “He’s skilled. He just gets tired. He’s so big. When you keep him fresh and get him in and out, he’s pretty good.”

Stockman is leading the Gophers with 82 percent shooting (9 of 11). He has blocked four shots and committed only one turnover. He has been able to slide into the rotation after three centers left the program last season - Reggie Lynch to expulsion, and Gaston Diedhiou and Bakary Konate to graduation.

‘Very skilled for his size,” Gophers forward Jordan Murphy said. “… We haven’t been very deep at the center position for a while, so just having that one-two punch, with Daniel and Matz, is pretty special for us.”

Last summer, Stockman planned to finish his undergraduate degree at Minnesota and forgo his final season of eligibility. After transferring in from Louisville in 2017, he was going to leave the U without playing in a single game.

His plan was to go to California, where he would play for Bears coach Wyking Jones, a former Louisville assistant under Pitino’s father, Rick. Stockman set out on an ambitious goal to complete 18 course credits and a senior paper before heading out to Berkeley, Calif., but fell a few credits short and suddenly was available again.

“(Pitino) told me if it falls through and you don’t make it, I will have a scholarship for you, so you can come back,” Stockman recalled. “When things didn’t work out academically, he called me up and we talked about it. He said I’d be happy to have you back.”

Pitino added: “It worked out really well that he was able to stay.”

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