By BLAKE TOPPMEYER
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
The traffic in the lane parted in front of Ryan Stuckman until he was the only thing between Illinois State's Jackie Carmichael and the basket.
Stuckman held his ground as the 6-foot-9, 240-pound Carmichael drove toward him and tried to dunk over him.
"I thought I was going to be on a poster the next day," said Stuckman, a senior guard on the Quincy University men's basketball team. "It was one of those moments where I just laid there on the ground afterward and thought, ‘That probably wasn't the smartest thing I've ever done.'"
Carmichael didn't convert the basket, but Stuckman's attempt to take a charge was ruled a blocking foul, and Carmichael made a pair of free throws. Even so, if Stuckman it had to do over again, he wouldn't change a thing.
"I'd do it again if I had to," he said.
That scene with Carmichael unfolded during the first half of a meaningless Nov. 5 exhibition game. Yet, it epitomized the way Stuckman has played his entire basketball career.
He is, in a word, fearless.
For eight years, he's put his body on the line in front of the Quincy community -- first at Quincy Notre Dame, then for two years at John Wood Community College and finally for two years at QU.
Stuckman will play his final home games soon. The Hawks (10-11, 5-8) open up a three-game homestand at 7:30 p.m. Thursday against Drury (17-4, 11-2). This stretch will mark QU's final home games of the year, and it's unlikely the Hawks will be in position to host a first-round Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament game.
"I'm going to have to be drug off the floor. I'm not going to want to leave," Stuckman said of the fact he'll be playing his final game at Pepsi Arena soon.
Stuckman readily admits his body isn't what it once was, possibly from a lifetime of taking charges. He's dealt with left knee issues during each of his seasons at QU. Last year, he missed a couple games with an MCL injury. This year, he also missed two games with a sore left knee. After the season, Stuckman will have surgery to get his nagging knee cleared up.
Stuckman said the knee soreness may have cost him a step, something he realized during last Thursday's game at William Jewell, when Stuckman dove for a loose ball but couldn't save it.
"Once I dove, I laid there for a second and thought, ‘Two or three years ago, maybe even last year at the beginning of the year, I would have gotten that ball,'" Stuckman said.
Still, it hasn't led Stuckman to change the way he plays.
Although Stuckman ranks third on QU in scoring at 7.2 points per game and shoots 34.5 percent from 3-point range, his biggest impact comes on defense.
The Hawks count on Stuckman to be a lock-down defender and energize the team with his knack for taking timely charges or hustling after loose balls.
"It takes a special teammate to give up his body in any situation," said forward Tyler Thompson, the only other senior on QU's squad. "The thing with Stuck is, it's consistent. He'll take a charge in the first five minutes, and he'll also take a charge in the last five minutes or in overtime. He's going to give you consistency, especially on the defensive end."
For Stuckman, taking charges primarily comes down to having the right mentality.
"The charge is the ultimate sacrifice for the team," Stuckman said. "You just have to have enough passion, I guess, to stand in there and take one in the chest."
Stuckman's playing style has made him a fan favorite at Pepsi Arena. It's also led to a running joke from Stuckman's grandpa, Jerry Ohnemus.
"My grandpa loves coming to watch me play, and his favorite joke is, ‘You know, my grandson is the best player on the floor,'" Stuckmn said. "And then someone will give him a confused look, and he'll say, ‘Because he's never on his feet. He's always diving.'"
Stuckman is particularly looking forward to Thursday's game against Drury, in which he'll try to slow down Panthers guard Alex Hall, who is the reigning GLVC Player of the Week and is coming into the contest off back-to-back 30-point games
Hall scored a team-high 17 points in Drury's 88-67 win over QU on Jan. 19 at Springfield, Mo. Stuckman had missed a pair of games because of his knee the previous week and played only nine minutes against Drury.
However, Stuckman's face-guarding of Hall during a pair of games last season at Pepsi Arena gave the sharpshooter fits. In those two games, Hall was 6 of 18 from the field, including 2 of 10 from 3-point range.
Although Stuckman said he has plenty of respect for Hall's game, there's no love lost between the two on the court. Stuckman is particularly fond of the photo from last season that his brother, Kurt, uses as his Twitter profile picture. The photo shows Hall and Stuckman face to face, with each player extending his arms out to the side, as if to say "come get some," and an official is moving in to separate the two.
"That was one of the most fun games I've ever played in," Stuckman said. "We did battle."
Stuckman has no plans to give up basketball after this season. He hopes to be recovered enough from postseason knee surgery to compete in the Gus Macker 3-on-3 tournament this summer with former JWCC teammates Jeff Obert, Kody Kirkpatrick and Will Carr.
"I have too much passion for the game to up and stop after the season is over," Stuckman said.
The Macker tournament features a physical brand of basketball in which not many fouls are typically called. Still, if Stuckman is willing to try to take a charge on Carmichael during a preseason exhibition contest, don't bet against him trying to take a charge during a 3-on-3 tourney.
"I can be pretty convincing. I'm sure I could take one or two within the course of the weekend," Stuckman said with a laugh.