Jarnell Stokes ready to take his place in starting lineup

Cuonzo Martin says 'you're trying to win ball games'

Cuonzo Marton on his ties to UConn and Coach Calhoun

It turns out Tennessee mid-term enrollee Jarnell Stokes is a fast learner on the basketball court as well as off it.

The 6-foot-8, 270-pound freshman power forward is expected to make the first start of his brief college career against defending national champion Connecticut today (TV: WVLT, 4 p.m.) at Thompson-Boling Arena.

"Bottom line, you're trying to win ball games,'' UT coach Cuonzo Martin said before Friday's practice. "The only way he's going to get better is playing.''

Stokes has been on an accelerated pace for quite some time, graduating early from Memphis Southwind High School in large part because of the honors class curriculum he took his four years of high school and an online course in English that helped him fulfill his requirements.

The Huskies were among Stokes' final choices before he announced he would sign with UT in December.

Stokes' first practice with the Vols was on Jan. 9, and he didn't see his first action until last Saturday's game against No. 2 Kentucky when he scored nine points on 4-of-5 shooting and pulled down four rebounds in 17 minutes of a 65-62 loss.

On Wednesday, Stokes' role expanded off the bench, and he came through with 11 points and eight rebounds in 26 minutes during Georgia's 57-53 overtime win in Athens, Ga.

Stokes' performance was impressive enough for Martin to put an emphasis on putting him and junior power forward Jeronne Maymon on the same team during practice the past two days.

"I talk to him and help him when I can, but he already knows a lot out there,'' said the 6-7, 265-pound Maymon. "I think practicing together has helped us.''

The Vols figure to need all the help they can get in the paint against coach Jim Calhoun's physical Big East team.

"They are very similar to Kentucky, but their big guys are more physical around the rim, with more shot blockers and runners and jumpers,'' Martin said. "Their big guys feed off post production, penetrating and pitching and offensive rebounds.''

As much attention as UT needs to pay to 6-10, 270-pound freshman Andre Drummond and 6-9, 240-pound Alex Oriakhi, the Vols also must be mindful of guards Shabazz Napier (14.6 points, 6.3 assists per game) and Jeremy Lamb (17.7 points).

UT point guard Trae Golden is expected to be up to speed after practicing Thursday and Friday. Golden missed Tuesday's practice with a mild ankle injury and appeared to be a step slow against Georgia.

Golden made it clear he's ready to help the Vols get back on course after losing their past two games.

"In basketball, you have to put the tough things behind you,'' said Golden, who missed a potential game-winning shot in regulation against the Bulldogs. "This is a great opportunity to play against the defending national champions, and we've got to make sure we're ready.''

Maymon, who didn't play in the Vols' 72-61 loss to UConn in Hartford last season, also is chomping at the bit for UT to find redemption after a disappointing loss.

"I was sitting there on the bench during that game last year wondering if I could help, but I didn't have the confidence I do now, and I didn't have the right mindset,'' Maymon said. "I probably would have been a waste of space.''

And today?

"We'll come out here with aggression and play hard,'' Maymon said. "They have the persona of being physical ... but you never know until you get on the court.''

'We Back Pat' Night: In a 24-second video on UTsports.com, Martin requested the support of the Tennessee student body to come out "rowdy, fueled up and ready to go" for the UConn game.

"We also support the 'We Back Pat' Night," said Martin, referring to Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt. "So come out and join the fun and excitement. Go Vols."

The Tennessee Athletic Department asks for fans to wear the "We Back Pat" shirt to the game to show continued support for Summitt, who's battling early onset dementia. Shirts can be purchased at various stores on campus, as well as participating Food City and Walgreens stores.

Shirts cost $10, and $4.25 of each sale goes toward Alzheimer's research.

Shirts for UConn fans are also being sold. They read "I bleed Blue and White, but I wear purple to back Pat." Purple is the signature color of Alzheimer's charities.

Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/MikeGriffith32

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Comments » 30

VolunteerLifer writes:

Go get em, Jarnell!!

Dougb-VFL writes:

Start him NOW ! I think we should start Golden, McRae, Stokes, Maymon, and Hall.This would be our most productive starting line-up.I know alot of people are down on Jordan Mcrae but I seen him play in the summer league and he put up 30 pts in the 1st half! I believe he plays a little nervous during games but with Stokes on the floor he may not feel the need to score and play more relaxed. I am sure Cuonzo will figure it out.VFL

graphpro#231211 writes:

We need a point guard. Golden isn't the answer. Doesn't matter who you put on the blocks if the guards can't get them the ball.

dwa7#337691 writes:

early predict.....sorry
UT 66
UCan't 72

born2ride writes:

It will be another shocker if we beat UCONN.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to graphpro#231211:

We need a point guard. Golden isn't the answer. Doesn't matter who you put on the blocks if the guards can't get them the ball.

...won't give them the ball.

lomas98 writes:

in response to Dougb-VFL:

Start him NOW ! I think we should start Golden, McRae, Stokes, Maymon, and Hall.This would be our most productive starting line-up.I know alot of people are down on Jordan Mcrae but I seen him play in the summer league and he put up 30 pts in the 1st half! I believe he plays a little nervous during games but with Stokes on the floor he may not feel the need to score and play more relaxed. I am sure Cuonzo will figure it out.VFL

Don't base what you see from summer league to real basketball. McRae doesn't play as much because he doesn't play defense and takes shots like he is in summer league. That doesn't work in regular season basketball when the opposing team is coming after you hard. No way our 3 bigs can be on the floor at same time. I would hate to see your lineup when subs are made or foul trouble.

I assume stokes will replace swiperboy in lineup. Stokes and maymon will make each other better being out there. Just need a knock down shooter out there to benefit from the double teams. All of our shooters are too inconsistent. Wouldn't be shocked if we win by 10 or lose by 10 tomorrow.

Vols4Ever writes:

The talent of the players that we put on the hardwood and those awaiting their turn on the bench is average compared to most the opponents we face this season. However, the team executing and exerting the most effort determines the winner. Our coach is positioning this continuing work in progress to exceed their individual abilities. We may or may not win the most recent game on the court, but we I enjoy watching a work of art come into being. GBO !!!

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

If we play like we did against Ky we win. If we play like we did against Ga. it's a blowout. Pick your score.
UT 78 ------ UT 56
Uconn 74 ---- Uconn 72

I'm afraid we get blown out!!

HtownVol writes:

I hope that if Mcbee is not scoring he does not play 20+ minutes. His defense is just too much of a liability. UGA exposed him so much with the back door cuts. If he is knocking down shots then it may be worth it.

I notice how Tatum can be so out of it sometimes, making some horrible decisions. If he is focused and determined he is much better.

Can we please feed Stokes and Maymon MUCH MORE?? PLEASE..

GO VOLS

jack_2222#231746 writes:

Mcrae is like Tatum and Hopson- erratic jump shot, loose ballhandling skills and weak at the rim. All are long, athetic and undependable.

underthehill writes:

Not much difference but I'd take McRae over Tatum..I also would like to see Washpun at least a few minutes resting Golden...

VAvolfanRON writes:

in response to graphpro#231211:

We need a point guard. Golden isn't the answer. Doesn't matter who you put on the blocks if the guards can't get them the ball.

and it took 3 posts for the first negative comment

VAvolfanRON writes:

in response to born2ride:

It will be another shocker if we beat UCONN.

WE?...WE?....you have never been a WE!

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to jack_2222#231746:

Mcrae is like Tatum and Hopson- erratic jump shot, loose ballhandling skills and weak at the rim. All are long, athetic and undependable.

Inconsistent and bad shooting from McRae and Tatum have had a direct effect on this team..To win in this league you MUST have 2 guards produce 14 PPG every game;no if's or buts..Golden has done his job with a 14 point average but McRae and Tatum at times are just awful!!! UCONN is a perfect example..Napier and LAMB are steady and contribute 30 points per game which is why they win..These 1 for 9 shooting games for Tatum and McRae have been the difference between us scoring a pitiful 54 points instead of 62 plus

jt45 writes:

Hope Tatum sits the bench on this one, otherwise its turnover time and terrible shots.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to underthehill:

Not much difference but I'd take McRae over Tatum..I also would like to see Washpun at least a few minutes resting Golden...

I agree Golden is having to play to many minutes and the fatigue shows late in the game..Too many times Ive seen Washpun come in for Golden and have back to back turnovers right away which have led to 8 point runs against us

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

Martin has been experimenting a lot on offense to see what works..With Stokes addition; Martin again is forced to continue the experiment..One big plus for Stokes is he shoots 60% and hits those all important 10 to 15 foot jumpers..What's really hurt us is the bad inconsistent shooting..I notice that we start games with cold shooting and spend the first half playing catch up or at a crucial part of the second half we blow leads by going 6 minutes without scoring and it has cost us 3 games..Uconn like KY has better talent with 2 good guards that put up 30 PPG and they know how to feed Drummond in the post..Drummond is really strong..His dunks shake the whole goal..To have a chance to beat UCONN we will have to deny post passes and hope Lamb and Napier have bad shooting games..GO VOLS

BolivrBob writes:

Huskies going down today
Tennessee 71
UConn 59

DaveVol writes:

in response to graphpro#231211:

We need a point guard. Golden isn't the answer. Doesn't matter who you put on the blocks if the guards can't get them the ball.

We haven't had a productive point guard since CJ Watson left. I can't remember any of Pearl's working out. I hope coach Martin can find one.

CoverOrange writes:

We need eight more wins to be post season eligible and we only have seven more games at home. We cannot afford another home loss. Hopefully, the orange crowd shows up today.

underthehill writes:

in response to licknpromise777#651578:

I agree Golden is having to play to many minutes and the fatigue shows late in the game..Too many times Ive seen Washpun come in for Golden and have back to back turnovers right away which have led to 8 point runs against us

I think I read where Golden played 37 min against Georgia after having a slight ankle sprain and missing one practice..then he had trouble again finishing..I was too harsh in blaming him for not being able to finish ..Martin has to find a way to play Golden less minutes or get him off the floor when he is bushed and the game is on the line.

ProfessionalHandicapper writes:

in response to born2ride:

It will be another shocker if we beat UCONN.

It will not be much of a shocker..UCONN is only a 2 point favorite. UCONN does not resemble last years squad as Kemba Walker could be counted on to score points. UCONN has no go to guy this year when needed. I think UT will give an over rated UCONN squad all they can handle today. This game means much more to Ut than UCONN. All stats are pretty even while UCONN's biggest advantage is holding opponents to only 36% from the field. But the road game factor could neutralize this stat. It should be very close. Both teams average 71ppg and UCONN allows 4 ppg less on defense. If UT will play hard nosed, they could pull the SMALL upset. A 2 point dog at home is hardly a shocker.

Dougb-VFL writes:

in response to lomas98:

Don't base what you see from summer league to real basketball. McRae doesn't play as much because he doesn't play defense and takes shots like he is in summer league. That doesn't work in regular season basketball when the opposing team is coming after you hard. No way our 3 bigs can be on the floor at same time. I would hate to see your lineup when subs are made or foul trouble.

I assume stokes will replace swiperboy in lineup. Stokes and maymon will make each other better being out there. Just need a knock down shooter out there to benefit from the double teams. All of our shooters are too inconsistent. Wouldn't be shocked if we win by 10 or lose by 10 tomorrow.

I have played BB my whole life and at a high level,I have also gotten into coaching a little bit.I hate to tell you but you must start your most talented players and see where it gets you. Unfortunately we do not have alot of possibilities at the 2 guard so McRae IS our best bet because Tatum lacks the skill we need and Richardson needs some more time to learn the pace of college ball(he will be a factor soon though).Why would you not want our 3 best post players on the floor together?Once they learn how to achieve a successful post interior pass out of a double team then they will not need any true shooters because we will be too busy hanging on the rim after an uncontested dunk! As far as bench play I feel that Tatum,Richardson,Woolridge,and hopefully more of Washpun will suffice.This is simply my opinion but I am giving it as a diehard UT fan that wants to see our team succeed and this lineup gives us the best chance! VFL

Dougb-VFL writes:

in response to jack_2222#231746:

Mcrae is like Tatum and Hopson- erratic jump shot, loose ballhandling skills and weak at the rim. All are long, athetic and undependable.

Hopson was inconsistent but when he was playing well he took over games and McRae has the skill to put up points and will improve. Either cheer for them or find another team to support because your post tells me that you have no hope for these guys so why bother even ACTING like a UT fan! VFL

wigmeister writes:

Go get um! Don't take any prisoners!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Dougb-VFL:

I have played BB my whole life and at a high level,I have also gotten into coaching a little bit.I hate to tell you but you must start your most talented players and see where it gets you. Unfortunately we do not have alot of possibilities at the 2 guard so McRae IS our best bet because Tatum lacks the skill we need and Richardson needs some more time to learn the pace of college ball(he will be a factor soon though).Why would you not want our 3 best post players on the floor together?Once they learn how to achieve a successful post interior pass out of a double team then they will not need any true shooters because we will be too busy hanging on the rim after an uncontested dunk! As far as bench play I feel that Tatum,Richardson,Woolridge,and hopefully more of Washpun will suffice.This is simply my opinion but I am giving it as a diehard UT fan that wants to see our team succeed and this lineup gives us the best chance! VFL

One big problem Martin has in figuring out starting lineups and substitutions is that most of our players are so inconsistent, you never know which version of each is going to show up. Also, the idea of having three primary post-type players on the floor at once is that the lane gets awfully congested between our post guys and their defenders. Even if one of the posts is a nominal wing, the only one I would trust to shoot more than a 10-footer is (gulp!) Woolridge, though Stokes may be another some day. The opponents would have no reason to chase any of the others outside the paint, allowing extra help on the ones inside. So you are still left with the problem of no room to pass or shoot, or for other players to drive the basket. Our big men have the most trouble when they get surrounded by defenders anyway.

I'm only half-joking when I say that if the Vols wanted to play three posts at the same time, the other guys shouldn't even worry about trying to pass it to them or driving themselves, they should just fire up every three-pointer they can get off and let our big guys put in the rebounds off the misses. And, heck, at least some of those three-pointers might go in! Finally, if all our perimeter players do is shoot threes, they won't get themselves swallowed up inside so that they are unable to get back to contest fast-breaks going the other way. Of course even then you still have the problem of which big guy has to chase small-forward types around the arc and up and down the court.

climberNeeds2workATwendys writes:

oh well..tennessee wins against another top 20 team..darn the luck..some idiot will complain that coach Martin wore a t-shirt and should have worn a tie and coat.

RashaadSalabeb writes:

Tough break, UConn!

Go Vols!

BubbaJ writes:

in response to born2ride:

It will be another shocker if we beat UCONN.

Not shocked!

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