Cuonzo Martin stopped short of sending Vanderbilt a thank you note, but the first-year Tennessee men's basketball coach did express appreciation to the Commodores for exposing flaws in Jarnell Stokes' game.
Vanderbilt dominated from start to finish in a 65-47 rout at Memorial Gymnasium on Tuesday night, holding UT's mid-term freshman to six points while forcing him into seven turnovers.
"That game was one of the best things for him, because their big fella (6-foot-11, 255-pound preseason first-team All-SEC pick Festus Ezeli) did a good job defending him,'' Martin said Thursday. "It's just part of his growth.''
Stokes' next task will come Saturday (TV: ESPN 2, 6 p.m.) when the Vols (9-11, 1-4 SEC) play host to Auburn (12-8, 2-4) at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Martin believes Stokes will respond the right way, much like Martin's former teammate, Glen Robinson, matured at Purdue.
The 6-7, 240-pound Robinson, the No. 1 pick in the 1994 NBA draft, averaged 24.1 points and 9.4 rebounds the first season he was eligible to play with the Boilermakers.
The 6-8, 270-pound Stokes is averaging 10.5 points and 8.5 rebounds through four games, but unlike Robinson, he hasn't had the benefit of a redshirt season.
Stokes, does, however, have a coach who understands the process he must go through before achieving greatness.
"I played with Glen "Big Dog" Robinson, a very talented player, and some games he had seven, eight or nine turnovers,'' said Martin, who played at Purdue 1991-95 and was Robinson's roommate. "So it's just going through it, getting adjusted to the atmosphere. Once (Robinson) made the necessary adjustments, he was tough to defend, and I think Jarnell will do the same thing.''
Martin indicated Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings instructed his players to get rough with Stokes, but he's not complaining, and neither was Stokes.
"I don't think the rough part fazed him; I thought they did a good job game-planning to be physical with him, making him work for everything,'' Martin said. "More than anything, it's him (needing to) be strong with the ball, making quick moves, being aggressive. When you're around the rim, gather yourself and go up strong.''
Martin said he had a chance to watch tape of the flagrant foul Ezeli was called for on Stokes in the first half of Tuesday's game.
"He had an aggressive foul, and kinda swung his hand across (Stokes') head,'' Martin said. "It was good basketball.''
Stokes, who was playing in front of his parents for the first time as a member of the Vols, bumped Ezeli after a hard foul in the second half, resulting in both players being assessed technical fouls.
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/MikeGriffith32