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Published: Tuesday, 2/10/2004

OSU suspension gave Stockman new perspective

BY RON MUSSELMAN
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Tony Stockman drives around Michigan State s Kelvin Torbert. He leads Ohio State in scoring at 13.3 points per game. Tony Stockman drives around Michigan State s Kelvin Torbert. He leads Ohio State in scoring at 13.3 points per game.
JAY LAPRETE / AP Enlarge

Ohio State s Tony Stockman got the message, loud and clear.

The Buckeyes leading scorer was kicked out of practice on Jan. 22 for dogging it, then coach Jim O Brien left him behind that weekend to contemplate his commitment to the program, as well as his future.

“I needed a few days to get my act together, Stockman said.

Stockman, a 6-1 junior guard, met with O Brien the day after the Buckeyes returned from Iowa, and after a long talk, he was cleared to rejoin the team for practice.

“Hopefully, Tony learned a lesson, O Brien said. “I know we re happy that he s back because he s a major part of our team. The way he s been playing the last couple of games is the way we envisioned he could play.

In the three games before Stockman s one-game suspension, the transfer from Clemson averaged 8.0 points. In the four games since his return, he is averaging 15.8 points, and has hit 11-of-18 trey attempts in the last two games.

He leads the Buckeyes in scoring (13.3), assists (2.7), steals (2.14) and minutes played (32.4) and needs just four points on Saturday at Wisconsin - where the Badgers have won 25 consecutive home games - to reach 1,000 for his career.

“I m happy to be back on the team, said Stockman, who scored 716 points and averaged 12.1 per game in 59 games at Clemson. “I think the message or the lesson from coach O Brien was just take advantage of the situation and don t take it for granted. That s what I m doing. I m a little more motivated now than I was.

“I understand everything coach did and I didn t disagree with it. It s not like I was mad about the suspension.

DAVIS DOMINATING: Paul Davis leads red-hot Michigan State, which has won four in a row and seven of its last eight to climb to the top of the Big Ten standings, in scoring (16.3) and rebounding (6.3).

The 6-11, 255-pound sophomore center has scored in double figures 16 times this year. He hit for a career-high 32 points in an 84-72 victory over Indiana on Jan. 31, making 11 of 16 shots and 10 of 12 free throws.

“He s a monster, MSU guard Alan Anderson said. “He s just a lot more aggressive now. Before, he d take a bad shot and wouldn t come back from it. Now he takes a bad shot and he wants it even more. He s a totally different player.

The Spartans (12-8, 7-2 Big Ten) connected on 21 of their first 25 attempts Saturday and shot a sizzling 73.3 percent in an 84-70 road victory over Ohio State - the highest shooting percentage against the Buckeyes in 105 years.

However, two late misses by Davis and Maurice Ager left the Spartans just shy of their school record of 73.8 percent, set against Minnesota in 1987.

MSU, which plays at Illinois tonight, has shot 50 percent or better in eight of its last games, rebounding from a 5-7 start.

“The offense is going really well right now, Davis said. “I think if we just step the defense up a couple more notches, we ll be right where we want to be.

STANDING TALL: Jan Jagla was a mediocre Big Ten forward for two seasons under former Penn State coach Jerry Dunn, averaging 8.4 points and 6.3 rebounds in 52 games.

This past summer, the 7-footer spent time working out with the German national team, where he added 30 pounds of muscle and played against NBA players such as Dirk Nowitzki, Hedo Turkoglu and Mehmet Okur.

“We played some really tough competition and in practice I went against Nowitzki every day, Jagla said. “That s a world-class athlete, almost impossible to play against, but I was able to see how he did things.

Yet, two days before the start of the European Championships, Jagla was the final player cut. He initially was devastated by the news, but has found a way to turn the situation into a positive.

Jagla has developed into one of the conference s better post players under first-year coach Ed DeChellis. He leads the Nittany Lions in scoring (14.6) and rebounding (8.3).

“He s a kid that you need to constantly talk with, DeChellis said. “He doesn t respond to criticism, so you need to be constructive. You need to pump him up.

BOOKER FINISHED: Senior forward Chris Booker, Purdue s 6-10 starting center and No. 3 scorer, lost an appeal to regain his academic eligibility for the second semester last week, thus ending his playing career

His playing status was in limbo for 40 days while the appeal was considered and he had not practiced with the Boilermakers since Dec. 21.

“I regret how things turned out for my teammates, coaches and fans, Booker said. “I m still close with my teammates and will be their biggest supporter for the rest of the season. He started the first six games, averaging 9.4 points and 5.6 rebounds.



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