Jarnell Stokes up to challenge in college debut

Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes (5) shoots the ball as he is surrounded by Kentucky defenders at Thompson-Boling Arena in Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012.  Kentucky defeated Tennessee 65-62.  (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer, copyright © 2012

Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes (5) shoots the ball as he is surrounded by Kentucky defenders at Thompson-Boling Arena in Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012. Kentucky defeated Tennessee 65-62. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Jarnell Stokes talks about his debut as a Vol

First he he reported to the scorer's table midway through the first half. Big cheer.

A few moments later Jarnell Stokes swept into the lane and nestled a hook shot in the basket. Bigger cheer.

Shortly, Stokes popped in a jumper from the key. Bigger cheer yet.

It's safe to say Tennessee's newest freshman surpassed expectations Saturday, even though the Vols lost 65-62 to No. 2 Kentucky.

"He wasn't intimidated at all,'' said UT coach Cuonzo Martin. "It was fun to see him out there.''

Stokes, who joined the team Monday, capped his first week on campus with nine points on 4-of-5 shooting. He also hustled up four rebounds and drew a charge in 17 minutes to the delight of a capacity crowd at Thompson-Boling Arena.

"He played a helluva game,''said senior Cameron Tatum. "I commend the kid for it.''

The 6-foot-8, 270-pound Stokes couldn't have picked tougher circumstances for a debut. Kentucky's Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones are NBA bound.

"I just tried to encourage him, especially on the defensive end,'' said teammate Jeronne Maymon. "Like, 'Show 'em how tough you are. Show 'em you belong.'''

Stokes looked like he belonged.

His third basket came on an offensive rebound. In the second half, he had the strength to go up in a crowd and haul in a long pass from Trae Golden and convert the layup.

"There was a lot of adrenaline going through me,'' Stokes said, "but that's the way I intend to play for the rest of the year.

"I was a little worried how would I do, coming out of high school. I felt pretty good when the first shot went in.''

Stokes was guilty of three turnovers and admitted he has a lot to learn on the defensive end.

"I'm not going to make any excuses,'' he said. "We're all on the college level. ... I feel as though I contributed to that loss.''

He's been on the college level for all of a week, during which he celebrated his 18th birthday. That includes three practices.

Martin used Stokes judiciously, moving him in and out of the lineup in short bursts. That role is likely to continue until Stokes gets more acclimated.

"I thought he did a tremendous job,'' said Martin. "He did a good job of accepting the challenge.''

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Comments » 15

johnlg00 writes:

Pretty much what we expected. Seems like a great kid, confident but not boastful, talented but aware of where he needs to improve and willing to work to do so. His personality reminds me a lot of Tobias Harris, though Harris had a few more weapons than Stokes has shown so far.

MikeTheTiger writes:

Looks like a great player. Congrats on getting him.

VolunteerLifer writes:

I was very impressed. The biggest notice is his body. He is a mastadon. I was thinking power forward until watching him today. Now I'm thinking low post all the way. He is going to be our horse down low in the paint.

His presence at the low post makes me wonder if Hall should be the power forward and Maymon might be a good match-up for some at small forward. In any case, he gives our inside game a lot more flexibility. Its hard to avoid getting ahead of myself and visualizing next year.

budd#207344 writes:

I had to keep remembering that this was a kid who just left high school in December. Much better performance than I imagined. And he showed no fear.
Also a real good recruiting story for CCM to use as he visits other top recruits. "If you can really play you will. Just look at J Stokes"

Fall_Creek_Vols writes:

Well...he said he was ready. Sure looked like he was.

Welcome, Mr. Stokes. We're glad you're here.

volntx writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Pretty much what we expected. Seems like a great kid, confident but not boastful, talented but aware of where he needs to improve and willing to work to do so. His personality reminds me a lot of Tobias Harris, though Harris had a few more weapons than Stokes has shown so far.

He is the best player on the team already and showed more talent in his first game than Tobias Harris did.
First shot - put the ball on the floor and finished with a sweeping hook shot in the lane.
Second shot - a nothing but net 17 footer
Third shot - pulls down a rebound between two players and puts it back in like they were not even there.
Fourth shot - pulls down a high passed one handed and put it in with a player on his back (should have been a foul).
Plus he had four rebounds, took a charge and that was in only 17 minutes. the only thing he did not do was hit a 3 pointer which he should have took but passed up which I think showed a lot of maturity.
I think they even saw him selling popcorn during halftime!!

VictorKruger writes:

in response to volntx:

He is the best player on the team already and showed more talent in his first game than Tobias Harris did.
First shot - put the ball on the floor and finished with a sweeping hook shot in the lane.
Second shot - a nothing but net 17 footer
Third shot - pulls down a rebound between two players and puts it back in like they were not even there.
Fourth shot - pulls down a high passed one handed and put it in with a player on his back (should have been a foul).
Plus he had four rebounds, took a charge and that was in only 17 minutes. the only thing he did not do was hit a 3 pointer which he should have took but passed up which I think showed a lot of maturity.
I think they even saw him selling popcorn during halftime!!

Great recap - all I would add is that sweet inside pass he had to Maymon. I was amazed at how good he was at rebounding and scoring; hopefully the defense and taking care of the ball will come quickly. Teams are going to have to collapse on him and Maymon, so hopefully that will free up our outsider shooters. What a welcome breath of fresh air Stokes is for UT athletics!

LJS1984 writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Pretty much what we expected. Seems like a great kid, confident but not boastful, talented but aware of where he needs to improve and willing to work to do so. His personality reminds me a lot of Tobias Harris, though Harris had a few more weapons than Stokes has shown so far.

Personally, I'm MUCH MUCH MORE impressed with Stokes than I was Harris. However, my opinion doesn't count for much.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to LJS1984:

Personally, I'm MUCH MUCH MORE impressed with Stokes than I was Harris. However, my opinion doesn't count for much.

C'mon guys. You all know that it's way too early to compare him with Tobias. Tobias was and is a great player. Stokes sure looks to be great for us now. I guess it's fun to compare though. I say Stokes certainly right now is better for UT than Harris is!lol

johnlg00 writes:

in response to LJS1984:

Personally, I'm MUCH MUCH MORE impressed with Stokes than I was Harris. However, my opinion doesn't count for much.

Well, none of our opinions counts for much in any case. I would say though that Harris looked more comfortable than most freshmen handling the ball in the open court. Of course, we don't yet know all the things Stokes can do well, but Harris' overall awareness of the court and almost equal ability on offense inside and outside were simply extraordinary for any freshman, and everybody who saw him said so. We haven't YET seen that out of Stokes.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

C'mon guys. You all know that it's way too early to compare him with Tobias. Tobias was and is a great player. Stokes sure looks to be great for us now. I guess it's fun to compare though. I say Stokes certainly right now is better for UT than Harris is!lol

Once again, Moc, you penetrated right to the heart of the matter! Your last sentence is absolutely incontrovertible.

johnlg00 writes:

PS: IMHO, Harris was almost equally good with and without the ball. He could create his own shot off the dribble or cut and post to receive a scoring pass with almost equal ease. It is almost pointless to compare Stokes and Harris in any case for the reason Mocsandvolsfan gave, but, again, we just haven't seen enough of Stokes to fairly assess his abilities yet. FWIW--and I won't disagree that it isn't worth much--IIRC, Harris was higher rated nationally than Stokes. I look forward to further revelations.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Once again, Moc, you penetrated right to the heart of the matter! Your last sentence is absolutely incontrovertible.

Thanks John. I am king of the obvious comment-wise. It's also fun to imagine what we'd have been like if Harris and Scotty had stayed. 'Course who knows, Stokes may have chosen differently with them here. Still though?!

BigVolFaninSC writes:

I have to say that I am more impressed with Stokes than Harris. Harris had the benefit of camp and "preseason" games against cupcakes. Stokes was put into the fire after THREE practices against many future NBA players and he looked like he belonged! I hate that we're having to choose between which one looks better when we SHOULD be admiring what a dominant front court we have in Harris, Maymon and Stokes!...Can you imagine?!!!!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to BigVolFaninSC:

I have to say that I am more impressed with Stokes than Harris. Harris had the benefit of camp and "preseason" games against cupcakes. Stokes was put into the fire after THREE practices against many future NBA players and he looked like he belonged! I hate that we're having to choose between which one looks better when we SHOULD be admiring what a dominant front court we have in Harris, Maymon and Stokes!...Can you imagine?!!!!

Why should we be admiring a front-court that never can be? That sounds more like day-dreaming to me. I agree with your point about how much more of a head-start Harris had over Stokes, but the key thing is what each brought to the table when they first stepped on the court as a Vol. Harris had a pretty complete game from the first; all we know about Stokes right now is "so far, so good", but we can't yet say that he ALREADY has a more versatile and polished game than Harris had, but of course everyone is entitled to their opinion.

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