University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino smiled back in March during a workout prior to the North Carolina State game in the NCAA Tournament at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y.
But it wasn't for a reason you might think.
"Matz (Stockman) has really improved," Pitino followed up the smile with, talking about his little used 7-foot Norwegian freshman center who had just turned a spin move into a dunk during a drill.
Pitino spent time in two press conferences at the end of the season raving about Stockman's improvement.
"He's still a work in progress," Pitino said. "But he's improving, he's working hard at it."
Stockman, a native of Oslo, Norway, was ranked among the top 100 foreign prospects when he signed with the Cardinals. The athletic, yet raw, 7-footer drew attention of coaches and scouts while attending the Canarias Basketball Academy in the Canary Islands.
But Pitino said last year when he enrolled that he was raw. And it's taken time for Stockman to adjust.
"I just had to work on everything," Stockman said. "But now that I have one year of playing experience and I know how it feels. I know what to expect now and I just need to keep learning."
Stockman, who only played in four games as a true freshman, said he would "definitely" feel his improvement.
"I think I got better during the season," Stockman said. "I feel like if I keep working that I can come in next year and really help out our team. I feel like I learned a lot from last year but I'm excited to get out there and play."
Having not faced the level of competition as the rest of his signing class, Stockman came to U of L and needed to add weight and become accustomed to the physicality of the game in the U.S., along with adjusting to the American culture.
The off-the-court adjustment came quick and easy and now Stockman said his game is coming along with it.
"I feel like I can help out," he said.