You could trace Stone Gettings’ arrival at Arizona this semester to his Southern California roots, connections with former Wildcats and his late-blooming talent.
But that’s not where it all started. That happened inside the Cornell University financial aid office, one day before Gettings’ junior season as a standout forward for the Big Red.
Gettings had already taken loans to cover $5,000-$10,000 of his required contribution during his first two seasons at the Ivy League school, which does not offer athletic scholarships. He was asked to contribute three times as much for his junior year.
A confused Gettings was told the problem was that his sister had just graduated from George Washington, so his shrinking financial aid package was now based on his family having just one kid to pay for instead of two.
Gettings said his sister had been on a full rowing scholarship, so nothing ever changed in his ability to pay.
“They weren’t too sympathetic,” he said.
But as his junior year went on, Gettings realized he was far enough along toward his degree in applied economics and management that he could graduate in three-and-a-half years.
At the same time, despite having no athletic scholarship offers out of Los Angeles’ Loyola High School in 2015, Gettings’ basketball ability had appreciated to a high-major level.
Suddenly, Gettings realized he wouldn’t have to pay for school at all anymore. Basketball could.
“It really became a burden when the amount changed and I had to start looking into it,” Gettings said. “But I think it was a blessing in disguise.”
Gettings decided he would sit out this season as a transfer, finish his Cornell degree in December and move on. Because he would graduate, he wouldn’t have to satisfy the NCAA’s year-in-residence requirement before playing, and could thus play part of this season or all of next season.
Gettings just had to figure out where to go next. He sought advice from a number of sources, including former coaches and ex-teammates such as Parker Jackson-Cartwright, the former UA point guard who played with Gettings at Loyola.
“Everybody just raved about the program here,” Gettings said. “It just seemed like a no-brainer to come here.”
So once the Wildcats bit on his recruitment, Gettings called UA coaches often to do some direct research on his own before closing the deal.
This is a guy, after all, who earned a business degree from an Ivy League school.
“I tend to overthink situations, so I was really thorough,” Gettings said. “I reached out to former players a lot, talked to Coach (Sean) Miller a lot as well as Coach (Danny) Peters. Probably bothered the hell out of them with how much I called, but I wanted to make sure I got all the information possible.”
Loyola coach Jamal Adams said Gettings had a “number of high-major options” at which to play a season and pursue a graduate degree, including Vanderbilt and Stanford.
But while Gettings has aspirations of one day getting an MBA and then opening a wealth-management firm, he knew his graduate degree effectively was also going to be in basketball.
So he chose UA for the chance to get a master’s degree in accounting … and play some high-level ball.
Adams applauded the choice.
“I was like, ‘If you’re going to take this leap and have the best basketball experience to help you get to where you can make money playing the game (professionally), it’s hard to beat Arizona,’” Adams said.
Gettings has been with the Wildcats for nearly a month now. He plans to practice the rest of this season and play in 2019-20.
Neither Miller nor Gettings has pushed for him to play his season, because Gettings said it would be too hard to pick up a new system and be effective. But the Wildcats have already incorporated Gettings fully into practices and scout-team activities, where he can mimic upcoming opponents.
“We’re excited about being able to add him to what we do,” Miller said earlier this month. “He’s a very skilled player. He can shoot the ball. … He also loves the game.
“It’s fun to coach guys who love the game because they’re always working and they’re always trying to get better. I think Stone is that type of kid.”
Already, Gettings has also found it’s fun trying to get better at Arizona.
“They really care about you here,” Gettings said. “At Cornell, I would cook for myself. Here, they make sure you have two or three great meals every day to make sure you’re getting proper nutrition. At Cornell, I would have a rebounder come and get me occasionally (for shooting practice), whereas here if I want to shoot they have three.”
“It’s ridiculous,” he added, smiling. “I feel bad using everybody like that. But they really just give you everything you need.”
Gettings said UA staffers also recently fitted him with insoles to help make sure his feet avoid trouble. Basketball conditioning coach Chris Rounds is already working with Gettings to improve his athleticism and get his body fat down to 5 percent.
“We’re really getting after it,” Gettings said. “I’m just making sure I can be a threat to score when I get the ball on the wing, and also posting up.”
A second-team all-Ivy pick last season, when he averaged 16.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, Gettings said he hopes to play a versatile post role that can include shooting on the wing, scoring inside and setting up teammates in something of a “point forward” role as he did last season.
Gettings had an unusually high assist rate for a big man last season, getting the assist 24.2 percent of the time when he was on the court and his teammates scored.
“I facilitated a lot at Cornell and I think that will carry over here,” Gettings said. “Overall, I think it will just be kind of using me as a matchup problem because I can shoot and really stretch the floor or if they want to go small, I have the ability to bang down low with the other team’s five man.”
It wasn’t that long ago that Gettings could have hardly imagined doing any of that at a high-major college level. Or even the high school level.
Gettings entered Loyola High School as 5-foot-9-inch surfer from Malibu who also had interest in football, basketball and water polo. Along the way, he struck up a close friendship with Jerod Adams, son of Loyola varsity basketball coach Jamal Adams. It’s a relationship that may have preserved his basketball career.
“He played freshman basketball and was a pretty good player on that team, but he honestly came to a crossroads,” Jamal Adams said. “He thought about water polo and giving up basketball. We talked about it and I suggested he stick with it.”
He grew to 6-4 as a sophomore. By his junior season, Gettings made the varsity while becoming a 6-8 stretch forward. He described himself as a “role player” on that talented team, but Adams said he was more than that.
“At 6-8, he could stretch defenses and he was a great screener,” Adams said. “He and Parker were devastating on the pick-and-roll. And he was so damn smart with the things we wanted to do defensively.
“I think Stone’s biggest strength is between his ears. He’s a worldly kind of guy. He’s got a great grasp of technology. He’s a great friend of my son and kind of a man of the people. I think he’s very adaptable.”
The only problem with all that sudden size came in the water. Gettings shelled out for a 5-foot-8 Channel Islands surfboard as a middle schooler, and quickly outgrew it.
“I’m sure it looks extremely awkward whenever I’m out there,” Gettings said. “It was pretty funny there for a while when I was 6-8, 6-9 trying to surf a 5-8, 5-10 surfboard. But now I have one that’s a little more my size.”
Gettings averaged 15 points and 10.9 rebounds as a senior while taking Loyola deep into the playoffs, but still attracted little interest at the high-major college level.
Gettings said he had offers to walk on at Cal and Stanford, an initial possibility at Columbia and a firm one at Cornell.
So Cornell it was.
Gettings averaged 9.5 minutes a game as a freshman and bloomed into a standout as a sophomore, averaging 12.4 points. As a junior last season, he was all over the Ivy League stat leaderboards, finishing sixth in scoring, third in rebounding and ninth in assists, while his 82.5 percent mark at the line was the league’s 10th best free-throw percentage.
Clearly, he was ready for a move up the college basketball ladder.
Which means an accounting student now could even book it this way: Cornell loses a standout, but the Wildcats’ 2019-20 roster gets stronger ... and Gettings’ college loan balance decreases.
The transaction has settled.
“He made a bet on himself, and Coach Miller made a bet on him,” Adams said. “I think it’s going to work out.”