On the surface, it appears Tony Stockman has led an idyllic life.
Ohio’s Mr. Basketball in 2000 for Medina High School … played a big role twice in upsetting the No. 1 college team in the nation, first for Clemson and then for Ohio State … got to see the world playing professionally in seven countries … married his high school sweetheart, Brittany, with whom he has four kids, ranging in age from 9 years to 6 months … and has won two national championships in his first two years as a college coach, with no previous coaching experience.
That’s why it stunned some to hear of all the trials and tribulations, every step of the way, as he addressed the players in Friday’s 36th News Journal All-Star Basketball Classic during Thursday night’s banquet at Der Dutchman Restaurant.
Stockman shared some of his joy with his fellow dinner guests, showing video of his 3-pointer that sealed Clemson’s victory over No. 1 North Carolina his freshman year.
“It was the worst shot ever,” he said, “but I made it … which made it the best shot.”
But there was plenty of sorrow, too.
As a youngster, Stockman’s father went to prison for selling drugs. Tony got in with the wrong crowd in ninth grade, smoking weed just as his basketball career was starting to take shape.
His older brother, Adrian, his own promising hoops career sidetracked by drugs, found out.
“He gave me a call and said you’ve got to make better decisions and hang around better people,” Stockman said. “You’ve got a chance to play college basketball, but you’re going to ruin it. He made me understand you have to learn from others’ mistakes, not just their success.”
Stockman found a new set of friends. Problem is, they drank. He got caught drinking at a party and was suspended for four games his sophomore year. He was leading the team in scoring.
“I almost thought it was cool because I got caught drinking,” he said. “The first game, I’m sitting out, my mom was there. I didn’t think she’d come because I wasn’t playing. I was acting cool and like I wasn’t mad about not playing. She’s hugging other parents, crying and telling them she’s sorry for my mistake. That woke me up. That made me realize the mistakes I made affect more than just me.”
Stockman went on to be honored as the best high school player in the state his senior year, earning a scholarship to Clemson, where he was selected to the All-Atlantic Coast Conference freshman team.
But he missed his family and transferred to Ohio State for his last two seasons. Midway through his senior season, he was leading the team in scoring for first-year head coach Thad Matta.
In late January that season, complications arose with Brittany’s pregnancy. There was a cyst on the baby’s brain. Tayden Stockman came into the world three weeks early and immediately went into surgery.
More surgeries followed and there were other terrible diagnoses, from diabetes to blindness. Now 9, Tayden doesn’t hear, see or communicate. He requires constant care and battles seizures. And, yet, the photo of Tayden projected onto the video screen by his father showed him with a big smile.
That’s the way Stockman looked the night his Ohio State Buckeyes beat No. 1 and unbeaten Illinois in the last game of the regular season. He showed video Thursday night of the bedlam that erupted on the court.
“I headed to the hospital after the game and was more excited because Tayden started drinking his bottle for the first time (after two months) and that meant we could take him home,” Stockman said.
After his college career, Stockman headed over to France to play ball. He also played in Germany, Israel, Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina.
“I think a little bit of me was running away from the problem,” he said. “Basketball had always been there for me — a release.”
But it became increasingly difficult to be away from his family. He began reading the Bible.
“It went from being so hard to deal with Tayden’s situation to thanking God for the blessing of Tayden,” Stockman said. “In terms of your relationship with God, you (all-stars) are going to have your own journey. I encourage you to be open to that. For me, God had to bang on the door with Tayden’s situation.”
Two years ago, no longer wanting to be apart from his family, Ohio Christian University in Circleville took a huge gamble by hiring a head coach with no coaching on his resume. Stockman has led the school to consecutive National Christian College Athletic Association national titles.
“I fell into coaching, but it’s put two things together for me that’s been great — basketball and my faith,” Stockman said. “I got to grow in my faith and be around basketball every day. I get to help young men grow in their faith and character. And now I’ve found my meaning.
“I couldn’t say I’d do that without Tayden’s life. I tell everybody he’s my angel and he’s put me in this place to do this.”