Father and son, and the 3

  • Wed Nov 10th, 2010 10:04pm
  • Sports

By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer

Of all the moments that have defined the basketball life of Jared Stohl, the most important came not from a two-hour shooting drill or from one of those tough-love moments with his father but from a can of spray paint.

Eleven years ago, when Stohl was in the fourth grade, his father, Eric, pulled out a tape measure and a few rolls of painting tape and led Jared out to the driveway of the family’s Marysville home. Together, they measured off a regulation 3-point line and spray-painted it white.

And right then and there, the most deadly outside shooter in college basketball was born.

Last season, Jared Stohl led all NCAA Division I players in 3-point shooting percentage, at 47.8. It’s a distinction that brings a lot of pride, for both Stohl and his father, and one that could put a huge target on the 6-foot-2 guard’s back as he enters his senior season at the University of Portland.

“I think (opponents) were gunning for me last year, but this year is going to be even worse,” Stohl said. “We lost some scorers, so I know more of the focus will be on me.”

The NCAA gave Stohl a plaque to commemorate his achievement, and it’s on display in the family living room to remind both Jared and Eric of the work they put in over the years.

Said the younger Stohl of the significance of the award: “All the hours, him rebounding for me, the times I had to make nine out of 10 before we’d move to the next spot, two hours of shooting, even on Christmas and Thanksgiving Day — it paid off.”

It could be said that a father’s love — as tough as it could be at times — led Jared Stohl to the top of his game.

Eric Stohl’s story is not that different from ones being told in cities and small towns throughout this basketball-mad nation.

He was a former prep star (at Forks High School) who played a little college basketball (at Peninsula Junior College) but wasn’t big enough to get as far as he thought the sports should have taken him (the 6-foot-2 shooter tried out at Central Washington University but was told that the Wildcats already had enough guards and were looking for big men).

Eric Stohl carried a sense of regret into young adulthood, knowing that he could have been better and done more if he’d dedicated himself to the sport at an earlier age.

“My dad didn’t play sports, and they didn’t have AAU teams back then, so I didn’t go about it the right way,” Eric Stohl said.

And so 21 years ago, when Eric’s second child and first son was born, he vowed to work with him and bring out the best Jared had to offer.

When Jared was six months old and could already catch a small ball with two hands, Eric knew his son would have some level of coordination. When Jared starting playing basketball in the second grade, he showed the same passion for the game that Eric himself had always carried.

And so Eric began pushing his son, gently at first but with added pressure as Jared showed he could take it. Jared Stohl admits there were “hundreds” of times when he wanted to quit, but he never gave up. And so his father kept on pushing Jared to be the best he could be.

“Sometimes he probably hated me,” Eric Stohl said. “I demanded a lot. There were times I got in his face. He’s real laid-back, so I got in his face — and he’d respond. When adversity strikes, he responds.”

Eric Stohl, who became a teacher and coach after graduating from CWU, doesn’t recommend this kind of treatment to every kid. But he knew Jared could take it, so this father knew he could keep pushing this son. And between the hard lessons were plenty of good times on the practice court.

“What I tell parents is that kids don’t want to work. They want the recognition, but they don’t want to do the work,” Eric Stohl said earlier this month. “With Jared, I was out there with him through it all. We worked together. You’ve got to make it fun, set goals, and create that mindset.”

Jared Stohl said he actually enjoyed the experience, mainly because he got to do what he loves while spending countless hours with his father.

Together, they would work on drills and develop Jared’s shooting stroke. Eric taught him to keep his elbows straight and to spread his fingers along the seam of the ball. He bought a shooting “gun” that would re-feed the ball after shots and told his son that quick tempo was the key to becoming a good shooter.

And Eric Stohl gave his son a shooting tip that Jared still hears in his own head to this day: “Don’t be short. Give the ball a chance.”

It wasn’t rare for them to work together for three to four hours at a time, either in the family driveway or at the Marysville YMCA. Jared would often go off for another three hours of shooting on his own. One day, Eric counted his son’s shots and found that he’d taken more than 1,000 in a single hour.

The key moment came when the Stohls painted the 3-point line for the first time. After that, Jared Stohl had his first concrete goal. He had once watched his father hit 38 consecutive shots from the 3-point line, when Eric was coaching at his alma mater in Forks, and Jared wanted to beat that record.

But no matter how hard he tried, Jared couldn’t come close. While playing at Marysville-Pilchuck High School and living at home, he never hit more than 20 in a row on the practice court.

But since going off to college?

“He’s hit 40 numerous times,” Eric Stohl said of his son. “Now he’s going for 50.”

In a game, Jared Stohl’s longest streak came when he made all five of his attempts in an upset win over UCLA last season. He hit 98 of his 205 attempts from 3-point range last season to lead the nation, including a school-record 10 in a December win over Idaho. And when looking at the plaque that hangs in his family’s living room, he feels kind of like the co-recipient.

“Definitely, he had a part in my success,” Jared Stohl said of his father. “He loves it even more than I do.”

When Eric Stohl was contacted via telephone for this interview earlier this month, he just happened to be watching a video of the Idaho-Portland game last season — when Jared broke the school record for threes in a game.

“He’s definitely surpassed me as a shooter,” the former Forks High star said of his son.

But that doesn’t mean Jared Stohl is beyond his father’s critiques.

“He’s got a little bit different stroke from me,” Eric Stohl said. “He holds his elbow out a little further. I still get on him about that, but it works for him.”

What works for the father is that he knows his son won’t have any regrets when it comes to his basketball career.

And no matter what the plaque in his living room says, Eric Stohol got something special out of the deal.

“Anytime you get involved with your kids,” he said, “you’re going to have a bond.”