Cuonzo Martin needed a ‘kitchen sink' to sign Jarnell Stokes

Southwind High School senior Jarnell Stokes stood before family, friends, and media as he told them he prepared to continue higher education and basketball at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

Photo by Justin A. Shaw, Special to the News Sentinel

Southwind High School senior Jarnell Stokes stood before family, friends, and media as he told them he prepared to continue higher education and basketball at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

Jarnell Stokes’ decision to play basketball at Tennessee on Thursday represents the kind of giant step for the program that only the 17-year-old’s size-20 sneakers could provide.

Stokes, a 6-foot-8, 255-pound highly coveted power forward from Memphis, is the first prospect ranked No. 1 in the state of Tennessee to sign with the Vols in at least 13 years.

UT announced Friday that Stokes signed an institutional offer of financial aid and is enrolling for classes, which begin on Jan. 11. Stokes can begin practicing with the team once the NCAA Clearinghouse approves his high school transcript. The soonest he could play in games is after classes have started.

“We’re excited about Jarnell; he’s a talented young man, but more importantly a guy with substance and character,’’ Martin said following the Vols’ 66-63 win over East Tennessee State Friday night. “He’s worker, he’s in the gym all the time and in the mornings.

“When I got the job (March 27), he was the guy, when you talked about the 2012 class, he was the one guy we felt we had to throw the kitchen sink at, because you’re playing catch-up.’’

Ranked No. 11 nationally by Rivals.com, Stokes graduated from Memphis Southwind High School on Thursday.

In addition to Memphis, Stokes narrowed his list of schools to choose from to Kentucky, Florida, Connecticut, Arkansas and Texas A&M.

Stokes said in a phone interview following his verbal commitment press conference on Thursday that he struggled with his decision, and he didn’t even decide to make a decision until Tuesday.

“I didn’t start narrowing down my schools until two days ago,’’ said Stokes, who turns 18 on Jan. 7. “I told myself I had to start eliminating schools, because I liked too many of them. I had an idea, but with prayer comes answers.’’

Some 25 minutes before his news conference at a restaurant in Collierville, Stokes sent out a tweet thanking God for his answer.

The answer was Tennessee and Martin.

Stokes put himself in position to graduate high school early after the TSSAA ruled that he would be ineligible to play this season after transferring from Memphis Central, where he averaged 19 points and 14 rebounds as a junior last season.

Stokes said he had been leaning toward choosing Memphis before geting to know Martin. The Tigers didn’t have an open athletic scholarship for the 2011-12 season, but he qualified for an academic scholarship and coach Josh Pastner was pushing hard for him to walk-on. Kentucky wanted him to wait until the spring to sign. Florida, like UT, offered the opportunity to play right away.

Stokes’ decision to shun Memphis for UT isn’t to be taken lightly; the most recent No. 1-rated player out of Memphis to leave and play for the Vols was guard Tony Harris, 14 years ago.

Stokes admits when he came on his official visit, on Oct. 8 when the UT football team hosted Georgia, he did so out of a sense of duty.

“I came out of respect, because it’s my home state school,’’ Stokes said. “I still liked a lot of schools, but I thought to myself, ‘I’m really liking this school.’ ’’

Stokes’ conversations with Martin continued, and he found himself spending hours on the phone with him.

It turned out they had a lot of common. In addition to their faith, both place a high value on hard work and academics.

“Just listening to Coach Martin talk was very intriguing,’’ Stokes said. “I didn’t mind talking to him for hours.’’

Stokes has a collegiate career full of days left with Martin, be it two, three of four years, before the intrigue of the NBA comes into play.

Stokes said he’ll be pushing to play for the Vols this season, but that he didn’t base his decision on where he could play right away.

When, if, or how much Stokes plays this season is still to be determined.

“We’ll take it day by day,’’ Martin said.

Most signees have the benefit of two months of collegiate-level summer conditioning and 2 ½ months of practice with the team before they begin playing in games.

Stokes believes he can make a difference.

“I definitely think I’m a leader by example,’’ Stokes said Friday on the News Sentinel’s Sports Page radio show. “I think if I get in the gym a lot, and I show guys my faith in God, I think people will follow, and that’s what I plan on bringing to Knoxville.’’

Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men’s basketball. You can follow him at http://twitter.com/MikeGriffith32

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Comments » 94

Ironcity writes:

Great news. I for one didn't think it would happen. I hope this is the start of something special for Martin and our Vols. It seems the last couple of years the only news we have had is bad news.

TNORANGEDOGDAD writes:

Great Get Coach Zo! Much needed help. Welcome to Big Orange Country Mr. Stokes.

ROCKYTOP10ECVOL writes:

All you Conzo Haters... Eat it, Pearl's gone & he isn't coming back move on or get out of the way. He got Pearls most coveted recruit to come to UT. I would hope this would shut some of you "brilliant individuals" up, but I'm sure you'll find something to complain about with this too. To quote Coach Norman Dale, "I would hope you would support who we are. Not, who we are not. These individuals have made a choice to work, a choice to sacrifice, to put themselves on the line 23 nights for the next 4 months, to represent you, this school. That kind of commitment and effort deserves and demands your respect. This is your team."
Go Vols!

eb502us#225637 writes:

Great signing but should we waste a year of eligibility with him having no practice time and this team being so bad.

Hard to believe we'd sniff an NCAA bid even if he lived up to his hype.

Then again with Martin being under the gun, I doubt he'd let him sit.

JohnnyU writes:

When I first looked at the picture I thought that was Cuonzo Martin sitting there.

GerryOP writes:

Way to go Coach 'Zo!

All Vol ... all day ... every day!

JimmyJoe writes:

Well played Coach... You have given yourself a chance.

TNORANGEDOGDAD writes:

in response to Count__Itsvan_Teleky:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

How about making us even happier Mr. Gobbler and Dooleave this site with your anti Tennessee negative comments.

iowavol writes:

in response to ROCKYTOP10ECVOL:

All you Conzo Haters... Eat it, Pearl's gone & he isn't coming back move on or get out of the way. He got Pearls most coveted recruit to come to UT. I would hope this would shut some of you "brilliant individuals" up, but I'm sure you'll find something to complain about with this too. To quote Coach Norman Dale, "I would hope you would support who we are. Not, who we are not. These individuals have made a choice to work, a choice to sacrifice, to put themselves on the line 23 nights for the next 4 months, to represent you, this school. That kind of commitment and effort deserves and demands your respect. This is your team."
Go Vols!

I take it from your comment you would like to see people move on. Why don't you lead.

Heard Coach Pearl say on XM-247sports that this guy is like Charles Barkley - a beast inside who is cat quick and a good jumper. Can't wait to see him show some of our other guys how to play inside. If Maymon can show some consistency - as in showing up every game - we could own the boards.

Ironcity writes:

in response to eb502us#225637:

Great signing but should we waste a year of eligibility with him having no practice time and this team being so bad.

Hard to believe we'd sniff an NCAA bid even if he lived up to his hype.

Then again with Martin being under the gun, I doubt he'd let him sit.

The answer is yes. Stokes does not intend to be here 4 years so use him while you can. I am curious to see how the team accepts him coming in at the middle of the season.

Ironcity writes:

in response to Count__Itsvan_Teleky:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Its not about the X's and O's its about the Jimmy's and the Joe's. Great players make great coaches. Coaching helps but talent trumps coaching.

Ironcity writes:

I know he can't play until classes start but when can he start practicing?

atributetoLombardiwasbanned writes:

in response to Count__Itsvan_Teleky:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Suggest removal.
Name calling is unacceptable.

10SE writes:

in response to eb502us#225637:

Great signing but should we waste a year of eligibility with him having no practice time and this team being so bad.

Hard to believe we'd sniff an NCAA bid even if he lived up to his hype.

Then again with Martin being under the gun, I doubt he'd let him sit.

Coach martin is only under the gun from a few ignorant fans. Give this guy time. He knowa what he is doing.

TommyJack writes:

in response to Count__Itsvan_Teleky:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Uber liar.

voloffaith writes:

Day shift site police must be feeling the heat so they are letting lil Ivan be ABUSIVE rant after rant.....was hoping you would permanently ban this individual as all his/her rants are ABUSIVE as is a no no per SITE RULES.

On topic,welcome to the Hill in January.

lomas98 writes:

in response to eb502us#225637:

Great signing but should we waste a year of eligibility with him having no practice time and this team being so bad.

Hard to believe we'd sniff an NCAA bid even if he lived up to his hype.

Then again with Martin being under the gun, I doubt he'd let him sit.

YES. Sometimes it is more than just the immediate action. Getting him will definitely peak the interest of other players for the future. Plus he will already be the best player on the team. I don't expect a miracle like some will. He has no college conditioning or practice time to gel with current team. Plus his first games will be against already seasoned sec players. Actually getting him is the best thing that can happen no matter the immediate results. Big momentum builder for Martin and fans will fill the seats now when he is eligible.

maciste54 writes:

I agree. Stupidity like that is unacceptable also.

10SE writes:

in response to Count__Itsvan_Teleky:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You and fans like you are not worth having. Understand the situation of our programs, then allow a little patience to bring us back to where we can be proud competitors again.

voloffaith writes:

To those who didn't know Count_itsavan came from Andy Griffith show as a guy who sang behind a curtain as Barney Fife lip synched. That's why I keep telling count chocula to go back to being a backup vocalist and not a posting protagonist.

ProfessionalHandicapper writes:

If he starts playing this season that means his one and done will be over and he can go directly to the NBA in only three months...He needed a team he could play for immediately and showcase his talents on the National level. If he is as good as advertised I doubt UT has him around next year. Some of Jan., Feb, and some of March and he's gone.

bamavol42 writes:

in response to eb502us#225637:

Great signing but should we waste a year of eligibility with him having no practice time and this team being so bad.

Hard to believe we'd sniff an NCAA bid even if he lived up to his hype.

Then again with Martin being under the gun, I doubt he'd let him sit.

Are you kidding? This kid will go NBA in a couple of years. We need to give him all the PT we can this year and next.

underthehill writes:

in response to Ironcity:

Great news. I for one didn't think it would happen. I hope this is the start of something special for Martin and our Vols. It seems the last couple of years the only news we have had is bad news.

After having read Martin's resume and background I did think he had the edge in recruiting NBA talent. Been there done that is obviously going to work for Martin. Talking for hours with this young man is impressive.

IBAVolFan writes:

in response to Count__Itsvan_Teleky:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Just bought himself another year or two.

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to Count__Itsvan_Teleky:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

you are a prized do do bird

SummittsCourt writes:

While I'm glad he chose UT and it brings wins I can't help but feel he is using UT and will be a one and done player. UT was the only school that had a scholarship to play right away. 11 games were all Kyrie Irving needed to be a top draft pick. So I am happy, but reserved at this point.

underthehill writes:

Congratulations to Coach Martin for his recruiting success and to the Stokes family for parenting such an impressive young man.
Here is hoping that we all are blessed by the real meaning of the Christmas Season.

StewieG writes:

If this means Tyler Summitt loses playing time I don't want this guy coming here.

Ironcity writes:

in response to SummittsCourt:

While I'm glad he chose UT and it brings wins I can't help but feel he is using UT and will be a one and done player. UT was the only school that had a scholarship to play right away. 11 games were all Kyrie Irving needed to be a top draft pick. So I am happy, but reserved at this point.

I wish more players of his skill level used UT the same way they use KY. I doubt he will be here for 4 years but I think he will be here more then a 1/2 a season.

HtownVol writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEAR:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Actually he can not be a "one and done".

If he plays this year he will not be eligable for the NBA draft. He will only be out of High School for 5 months or so. A player has to be out of High School for a year to enter the draft. So at minimum Stokes is a one and a half and done.

Lets hope this leads to a few major recruits to sign at UT and they all enjoy UT and decide to stay for a few years.

It sure would be great to sign some real scorers (unlike a Golden and McRae who often shoot 1 of 25 combined) and some big men. I am very excited about Stokes but we still need a legit Center. Hall is a foul machine who needs to take 5 steps to get a shot.

GO VOLS

BigBoyBall writes:

in response to ProfessionalHandicapper:

If he starts playing this season that means his one and done will be over and he can go directly to the NBA in only three months...He needed a team he could play for immediately and showcase his talents on the National level. If he is as good as advertised I doubt UT has him around next year. Some of Jan., Feb, and some of March and he's gone.

he won't be of legal age...

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

in response to Count__Itsvan_Teleky:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

So real fans call the coaches names?? Hmm..guess I'm not then!! You are so full of it..You are a total joke and embarrassment to the human race..Get lost!!

Smokey says he apologizes to his friend, but that was necessary..

ULTIMATEVOLUNTEER writes:

What jersey number will he be wearing? We need another good #44.

LSG410EC83 writes:

Great boost for the Vols and Coach Martin. Seems like the kid has his head on right by what interviews I have seen. Look forward to seeing Mr. Stokes contribute to the Big Orange. And all of the true Vol fans, why waste time responding to all the negative, non-Vols. All they are looking for is a response and they are very successful on this site. Hope all have a Merry Christmas. Look forward to heading toward the big K-town to watch the boys play tonight. IT IS GREAT TO BE A TENNESSEE VOL. GO BIG ORANGE.

Ayres_Hall writes:

Good work Coach Martin. Welcome Jarnell, the majority of UT fans are not like the haters and trolls who live on this comment board.

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

Stokes freely admits that when he came to Knoxville on his official visit this fall, he did so out of a sense of duty.

“I came out of respect, because it's my home state school,'' Stokes said. “I still liked a lot of schools, but I thought to myself, `I'm really liking this school.' ''

This is what I'm talking about! Good to see a kid have as sense of pride for who he is and where he's from. Memphis isn't in Arkansas, it isn't in Miss. or Alabama...It's in TENNESSEE! All the chitter chatter about this kid from the chumps. This kid is a really good student and has his head on straight. He's gonna put it on for his state. And the Memphis fans only started saying he was over-rated once they knew he was gone, LOL. Basketball is the one sport where one stud player can come in and completely change a team. We might not see an instant impact from him on the court, so lets give him a chance to get his feet under him and get aquainted to CCM's system. But we have a VERY young team. Even Pearl's leftovers are all soph, except Tatum. And I think anyone with a brain knows we will be far better off once he's gone. Things are looking up on the hill.

voloffaith writes:

in response to Count__Itsvan_Teleky:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Count baby behave and I won't TATTLE on you anymore. TADDLE is when you tell and get paddled also I guess as I couldn't find TADDLE in dictionary. BTW we only go to the principal's office when you refuse to abide by the rules as defined by the site. You can be a negativiser all you want,just stop calling our two coaches by third grade schoolyard names. Criticize all you want ,but within respectful means whether you like them or not. Just saying/asking if you can be up to the task or if it is just too much will try to understand your unwillingness to be civil. Again....Merry CHRISTmas!!!

ProwlinAndGrowlinSmokeyDog writes:

in response to LSG410EC83:

Great boost for the Vols and Coach Martin. Seems like the kid has his head on right by what interviews I have seen. Look forward to seeing Mr. Stokes contribute to the Big Orange. And all of the true Vol fans, why waste time responding to all the negative, non-Vols. All they are looking for is a response and they are very successful on this site. Hope all have a Merry Christmas. Look forward to heading toward the big K-town to watch the boys play tonight. IT IS GREAT TO BE A TENNESSEE VOL. GO BIG ORANGE.

You're right, sir!! Why give the trolls the satisfaction?? Even though I did, I had to get it out of the way because he claim he was a real Vol fan but yet he resorts to name-calling..Uh, no...don't think it works like that.

Anyway, Merry Christmas to all my fellow VOL FANS!!

Smokey says he hopes Santa is good to everyone..

VOL1972 writes:

This is obviously a smart kid -- just like Tobias. Had he gone to KY, it would have been a struggle making it into the starting lineup until next year. At UT he'll be starting by the end of January, if not sooner. For UT this is the guy that fills the hole Tobias left. CCM will build this team around him.

I would think it will take a little time for him to get back into form and suspect UT will be a spoiler late in the season.

Coming in late this year probably means he will be here thru next season.

LSG410EC83 writes:

in response to TennesseeTonyT:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I love your optimism. I do think we will do a lot better than most think, but SEC champs this year may be stretching it just a little. As long as we see progress throughout this season. This will mark success for the team and Coach Martin. As mentioned in my previous post, addition of Mr. Stokes is a great boost. However, TEAM PLAY will be what it takes. Doesnt matter if you have all 5 stars, without playing as a team they can only go so far. We have seen examples of this in the SEC over the past couple of years. Not going to mention who I am talking about because I think most know who it is. IT IS GREAT TO BE A TENNESSEE VOL. GO BIG ORANGE.

FWBVol writes:

in response to Count__Itsvan_Teleky:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Other than the obvious that others have posted about your spelling errors, name calling of Derek Dooley and Counzo Martin does not amount to the truth.

Dooley haters are quick to give Dykes the credit for the success La. Tech had in football this year, but they refuse to give CDD the credit for bringing in the players that were upperclassmen that were the foundation of that success.

In some ways Martin inherited a more dysfunctional situation with the basketball team than Dooley did with the football team two years ago. Yes, Pearl recruited great players, but they layed on egg down the stretch last year.

In reality, Pearl's best coaching jobs were not with the highly rated recruits he brought in, but rather with the kids like Dane Bradshaw and Chris Loftin that were Buzz Peterson recruits. That's the truth.

I have been a Tennessee fan since the days of Ray Mears in basketball, Doug Dickey in football and Bill Wright in baseball so I know a little something about the truth.

Again, name calling doesn't equate to the truth. The fact is Stokes choosing Tennessee will get other kids to at least give us a look as the top ranked kids pay attention to what other players are doing.

We have one or two more scholarships available for next year. I wouldn't be surprised if Cuonzo had some calls this morning from some four and five star guys wanting to more about the program. The truth is I don't know that for a fact, but I'd say with Stokes on board others will likely follow as many kids have a herd mentality.

RoadTrip writes:

I have scrolled through the posts looking for ole Jarhead to admit that he was wrong and I am right about Coach Zo opening the Memphis to Chicago pipeline for the better players within 2 years of getting the job. But alas, no Jarhead in sight.

First of at least one top player from that region every year. Coach Zo is a highly respected and well known commodity in that region. MH did not miss on him. He will still have to adjust some defensive philosophies to the reality of playing in big boy ball leagues week after week and fix the PG play, but he just showed his willingness to do so in the last game. He used a zone for some minutes and Washpun's improved play helped stabilize the team when they needed it.

This team was decimated by the Pearl 'AA situation, lack of top school qualified recruits, and inability to play half court with his system. It will take 3 years to feel the full effect of what Coach Zo brings as the roster absorbs what he expects. But it will be special and long term when it all comes together

underthehill writes:

in response to Orange_A_Holic:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

No sense in that kind of nonsense anywhere anytime.

CroKev writes:

Faith, hard work, and academics. Stokes said he shared that with our new coach. Sounds like a really good kid and a really good coach. What three words would you use to describe Calipari?

voloffaith writes:

Kudos go out to the Site police as I briefly and warmly called you out earlier as to whether you would allow the 'count' to continue his tirades which added nothing constructive to the conversation. I don't mind dialogue as long as we all play by the rules with a mind towards being constuctive with respect to the TOPIC. Yes ,that does allow for CONSTUCTIVE criticism. So we are not requesting censoring critical type comments. Goodday to all for at least another hour til typing may commence again. :)

cooper65#432178 writes:

I thought Vol fans hated Memphis players Why all the love now?

rdrgtr writes:

in response to ProfessionalHandicapper:

If he starts playing this season that means his one and done will be over and he can go directly to the NBA in only three months...He needed a team he could play for immediately and showcase his talents on the National level. If he is as good as advertised I doubt UT has him around next year. Some of Jan., Feb, and some of March and he's gone.

I think you are wrong about that. He is not qualified to play in the NBA until his graduating class has completed one year of schooling. He will have to play the full 2012-13 season.

VOLtage writes:

Be funny if really meant he wants to play for UT at Martin. Not for Coach Martin at UT. Sorry folks too much eggnog.

Snapshot writes:

in response to ProfessionalHandicapper:

If he starts playing this season that means his one and done will be over and he can go directly to the NBA in only three months...He needed a team he could play for immediately and showcase his talents on the National level. If he is as good as advertised I doubt UT has him around next year. Some of Jan., Feb, and some of March and he's gone.

Come on do a little research, he won't be eligible. Not very professional of you. Hope your handicapping is better than your knowledge of basketball.

rbwusa writes:

Wopee! Now I have something to watch with Vols Basketball "the creation of what could be a Super Basketball player"....You go Kid!

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