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"The best pure
point guard
who ever
played
the game"
--Charles
Barkley


 
Kerry Pickett
Stockton's coach at St. Aloysius grade school

The introduction: Kerry Pickett first met John Stockton while attending law school at Gonzaga University in the early 1970s.

He and a friend were at Mission Park on a hot summer afternoon, throwing a football around, when they were approached by a spindly fifthgrader who had just walked out of his house.

‘‘He'd never met us, but he came across the park and asked us to throw him passes,” Pickett recalled. ‘‘It was about 100 degrees, and my buddy said OK, figuring the kid would tire out in a few minutes.

‘‘But he stayed out there for a good hour or more and ran nothing but streaks -- 80-yard pass patterns -- until we finally just had to tell him we couldn't throw any more.”

Raising the bar: Pickett knew he had something special in Stockton long before he took him and a group of local high school standouts to Huntington, W.Va., to play in the national AAU tournament.

Pickett was well aware of Stockton's competitive drive. But his appreciation of his undersized point guard's passion for basketball grew immensely on the flight home following the tournament.

‘‘Back then John really believed in his heart that (former Gonzaga Prep and Washington State star) Terry Kelly was the best basketball player in the world,” Pickett recalled. ‘‘He came from Spokane, went to Washington State and was a G-Prep kid, so, naturally, that was his hero.”

But at the AAU nationals, Stockton was forced to go head-to-head with another pretty fair young point guard.

‘‘I told our guys going in that they'd be playing against guys from all over the country -- New York, Chicago, Detroit,” Pickett said, ‘‘but John was still convinced nobody was better than Kelly.

‘‘At the tournament, though, he matched up up twice against a kid named Isaiah Thomas. On the plane ride home, everybody else just remained in awe. A lot of our kids were sort of discouraged by it all, but John wasn't discouraged in the least. He just accepted the fact that the bar had been raised.

‘‘He came back to me and said, `Coach, I had no idea how good I have to get. I thought the pinnacle was Terry. Now I can see how far I have to go.'

‘‘And he immediately starting asking about what it would take to start competing at that level.”

Pickett on Stockton: ‘‘Most kids tend to be selfsatisfied, but I've never seen John like that. Even last summer, he comes back and tells me he needs to get better. People might think that's BS, but it's not.

‘‘I mean, how many athletes who are going to be in the Hall of Fame, come back at the age of 40 and ask their old coach, `What can we do this summer to make me better?'"

 
 
   

Utah Jazz guard John Stockton, right, looks to pass against pressure from Dallas Mavericks guard Steve Nash during an April game in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Steve C. Wilson)
 
 


 
 
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