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Men’s Basketball: UL’s Stove honors late grandpa with move from 22 to 30

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, March 3, 2018

Johnathan Stove had some news to break.

The original plan for the swingman was to surprise his grandmother with it when she traveled earlier this season to watch him play for the first time in his college career.

It was November, and the UL basketball team was playing its 2017-18 season opener at Ole Miss.

But before the Ragin’ Cajuns got a chance to face the Rebels, an uncle poking around online got the scoop first and unintentionally wound up spilling the beans.

Stove had changed his uniform number from 22 to 30 for his senior season as a tip of the hat to his beloved grandfather.

Opston Guillory, a retired first line supervisor for Exxon Mobil and a veteran of the United States Air Force, died last April 30.

Related: Two longtime UL teammates savoring the final few days

“I honestly wasn’t going to tell her,” Stove said of his grandmother, Gladys. “I didn’t want her to know until she got to the game.

“Me and my grandmother have a great relationship … like (mine with) my grandfather … so I knew telling her would be emotional for both of us.”

When word leaked early, however, Stove wound up calling Gladys and talking to her about his motivation for the switch on the phone.

For the longest time, since his days at Christian Life Academy in Baton Rouge, Stove wore 22 as a tribute to an uncle, his mother’s brother Richie Dixon, who passed on Dec. 22, 2009.

In fact, he wore it for each of his first three seasons at UL — which plays host Saturday night to Little Rock in its final outing of the regular season.

Going to 30 really was a big deal, because Stove wore 22 for so long that “two-two” was a go-to nickname used by all of his Cajun teammates and many of those around him at UL.

Saturday night, prior to the 7 p.m. game at the Cajundome, one in which the 26-4 Cajuns will be trying to cap off an undefeated season at home, Stove and four of his teammates — Frank Bartley IV, Bryce Washington, Jacob Broussard and Larenz Stalcup — will be recognized on Senior Night.

Foote column: Washington fitting leader of this team

Related: Bartley hits 1,000 points as UL notches win No. 26

It remains to be seen if the double-digit scorer will play, as he sustained a high ankle sprain in the first half of UL’s win over Arkansas State on Thursday.

Either way, instead of 22 Stove will proudly be wearing 30, a number — as he told his grandmother over the phone — he felt moved to wear during his final season with the Cajuns, who are Sun Belt Conference regular-season champs and will take a No. 1 seed into next week’s SBC Tournament in New Orleans with hopes of claiming an NCAA Tournament bid.

Johnathan Stove wore No. 22 in honor of a late uncle for his first three seasons at UL, then switched to 30 for his senior season after his grandfather died last April 30. 

Johnathan Stove wore No. 22 in honor of a late uncle for his first three seasons at UL, then switched to 30 for his senior season after his grandfather died last April 30.  (Photo: SCOTT CLAUSE / USATODAY Network)

“She was so happy,” he said, “because she knew how much he meant to the family and how much he meant to me.

“She was just happy that I found a way in my own life to honor him.”

So when Stove’s grandmother watched that long-ago Cajun visit to Ole Miss, knowing already about the decision, no further explanation was needed.

“Even though we lost,” he said of the game in which he scored 16, “she was just happy that I played well and that I made that change.”

Related: UL has no second-half answer for Ole Miss in opener

Just as pleased was Stove’s father, Ben, Guillory’s stepson.

Stove didn’t intend for his dad to know about the number change before the season started either, but — again thanks to the darn internet — he just couldn’t keep a lid on the surprise.

“My mom (Sandra Fay), she was looking on our website at the schedule,” Stove said “and she accidentally clicked ‘roster,’ and then she found out.”

That’s how Ben learned the news.

“He was kind of emotional about that at the time too, but he was perfectly happy with it,” Stove said. “He felt that was something I wanted to do, and he was fully supportive of it.”

UL’s Marlin on Stove: ‘It got pretty quiet; I heard him yell’

Stove truly was close with Guillory, who was at home in Baton Rouge with Gladys watching a Cleveland Cavaliers-Boston Celtics NBA playoff game when a heart attack struck.

“That was like my best friend,” Stove said.

“Outside of the friends I have my age, my grandfather was my go-to person for everything. I talked to him about everything.”

As a youngster growing up in Baton Rouge, Stove explained, “I actually stayed right next door to my grandparents.”

“I could walk out the back door and go to their house,” he said.

“He (Guillory) was there for everything. He went to AAU trips with us, he took me to practice, picked me up from practice, took me to school, brought me (home) from school.

“He was always cooking for me, and stuff like that,” Stove added. “He was part of my childhood for forever.”

Related: Stove, Washington helped UL answer first Sun Belt loss

Guillory didn’t play the game, but that didn’t matter.

Watching his grandson play basketball was a bond, but their relationship was deeper than that.

“He was always so supportive of me,” Stove said, “and he always made sure that I had what I needed to be successful and made sure I was good.

“Whatever I needed, he took care of.”

And now Stove is taking care of Guillory the best way he knows how.

Thirty incredible meaningful ways, in fact, on top of the 22 that got him going.

Related: Cajuns have plenty of options with Marquetti, Stove

More: UL senior accepts a role that can make or break a team

UL (26-4, 16-1 in the Sun Belt) vs. LITTLE ROCK (6-24, 3-14)

WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Cajundome

TV: None

ONLINE: RaginCajuns.com with Ryan Baniewicz

RADIO: KHXT 107.9 FM with Jay Walker

UL LEADERS: Frank Bartley IV, 17.4 points per game; JaKeenan Gant, 14.6 points, 6.3 rebounds per game and 2.3 blocks per game; Johnathan Stove, 11.0 ppg; Bryce Washington, 10.7 ppg, 10.6 rpg; Marcus Stroman, 6.3 assists per game

Athletic Network footnote by Dr. Ed Dugas.
Please view the story below about the Thursday night injury to Johnathan Stove.

UL’s Marlin on Stove: ‘It got pretty quiet; I heard him yell’

UL senior swingman Johnathan Stove went down to the floor of the Cajundome in Thursday night’s win over Arkansas State

UL’s Marlin on Stove: ‘It got pretty quiet; I heard him yell’ UL senior swingman Johnathan Stove went down to the floor of the Cajundome in Thursday night’s win over Arkansas State

got pretty quiet; I heard him yell’

A few moments after Johnathan Stove went down to the floor in the first half of Thursday night’s win over Arkansas State, the Cajundome fell silent.

As UL coach Bob Marlin walked from the Ragin’ Cajuns bench area to the opposite end of the floor, he was not sure what to expect.

“I heard him scream,” Marlin said of Stove, a senior swingman and a double-digit scorer for the Sun Belt Conference’s regular-season champions.

Stove, according to Marlin, has a high ankle sprain.

Related: Two longtime UL teammates savoring the final few days

“It got pretty quiet, and I heard him yell, so I knew he was hurt,” the Cajuns coach said. “I was thankful to hear that it was his ankle, and he was moving it when we got out there to him.

“He’s had some lower-leg (injuries) before; he missed a couple games (actually five early this season).

“So he’ll bounce back,â€Â Marlin added, “but I was just thankful it wasn’t a knee.â€Â

Although the true extent and impact of the injury may not be known for another day or two, then, it could have been worse.

But it arguably could not have come at a much worse time for the 26-4 Cajuns, who play their final regular-season Saturday night against Little Rock before heading to New Orleans for next week’s Sun Belt Tournament with an NCAA Tournament bid guaranteed for the winner.

Stove, a starter for three seasons and a career 1,000-plus-point-scorer, has played a key sixth-man role for UL in 2017-18, averaging 11.0 points per game off the bench.

With Saturday being Senior Night for UL, and lots on the line for the Cajuns teammates — and close friends — Bryce Washington and Frank Bartley IV were convinced after Thursday’s game that Stove will somehow find a way to play against the Trojans in what could be his last-ever game in the Cajundome.

More: Bartley hits 1,000 points as UL notches win No. 26

With a win Saturday, UL would not only boost its overall school-record count of wins to 27 but also would finish undefeated at home in the regular season.

"He’s gonna play," Washington said with certainty, probably based more on gut feeling than medical fact, that may or may not prove true.

“Stove’s tough,” Bartley added before meeting with his former teammate at Christian Life Academy in Baton Rouge to learn just how hurt he really was. “But if we know him … he’s gonna play Saturday.”

It could be regular minutes if the left-ankle sprain is not severe.

Perhaps, though, it could, if at all possible, be just a cameo on a night UL’s five seniors — Stove, Washington, Bartley, Jacob Broussard and Larenz Stalcup — are honored before the game.

Foote column: Washington fitting leader of this team

“We don’t know how long he’s gonna play,” Bartley said, “but he’s gonna show up for Senior Night.

“But the best thing for him right now … (is) we want him healthy for not necessarily Saturday, but obviously next week, when things get real again, because that’s a whole new season.

“So were gonna need everybody — Stove, Justin (Miller, slowed by a back injury Thursday). Everybody’s gonna have to help," Bartley added. “We’re no stranger to (adversity), but when we have a healthy team we’re really scary. So if we get everybody healthy by next week, we should be moving in a positive direction.”

But Stove’s injury, Marlin suggested, is quite legit.

For the Cajuns, who have long harbored NCAA Tournament hopes for 2018, that’s seemingly a major cause for concern as postseason play nears.

That in mind, it’s good for UL that it received an early bye in the conference tourney as a top-four seed — the Cajuns are No. 1 — and will not open play in New Orleans until quarterfinal-round action on Friday morning.

Related: UL did little to celebrate Sun Belt hoops championship

More: Cajuns claim outright Sun Belt title

Although high ankle sprains tender to linger, that allows plenty of time for short-term healing.

“You saw what I saw,” Marlin said. “No, he’s not OK. But he played. He’s a tough young man.”

Asked if Stove lobbied to play in Thursday’s second half, the Cajuns coach said, “He didn’t ask to play at all.”

Instead, Marlin said, “the trainer said to play him; he needed to move.”

“Johnathan always wants to play, so you don’t have to ask him,” Marlin added. “It wasn’t going to be his decision; it was going to be our trainer’s.”

More: UL senior Stove accepts a role that can make or break a team

Related: Cajuns have plenty of options with Marquetti, Stove

More: Stove, Washington helped UL answer first Sun Belt loss