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.''