Billy Donovan: Jarnell Stokes took on leadership role

The gold may have been slightly bittersweet for Florida coach Billy Donovan.

Having led the United States U18 National Team on a five-game men's basketball romp to the top of the medal stand in the 2012 FIBA Americas Championships, Donovan caught a firsthand glimpse of what could have been.

When Jarnell Stokes was a high school star in Memphis, Florida made every effort to court the imposing power forward to Gainesville. He chose Tennessee instead, enrolled after the 2011-12 first semester and immediately blossomed.

As a Vol, Stokes only faced Donovan and the Gators once, playing a season-low 11 minutes in a UT upset victory at Florida.

At the FIBA Championships, however, where Stokes averaged 14.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and shot 68.9 percent in 20.2 minutes per game, Donovan saw more than enough.

"He's too good when he gets set up inside — very difficult to handle," Donovan said by phone Thursday from Brazil. "There was no one guy down there who could match up to him physically. He just overwhelmed other teams' frontcourts, even when he was up against guys who were taller with more length. He could remove them from plays with his strength."

The 6-foot-8, 250-pound Stokes scored 11 points and pulled down four rebounds in Wednesday night's gold-medal victory against host Brazil. He started each game as the Americans went 5-0 and won by an average of 38.6 points per game.

Stokes led the U.S. team with 13 offensive rebounds and limited his mistakes. He registered just six fouls and five turnovers in 101 minutes of action.

On a team comprised entirely of high school players, Donovan said Stokes took on a leadership role. The lone semester of SEC play proved valuable.

"There was a better understanding of everything," Donovan said. "He's been through different things and he's probably a little further advanced."

What stood out the most to Donovan, though, is that Stokes is getting better. There's still space for a few steps forward.

"He did what he did in the tournament and, I'm not being critical, but he could have had even more of an impact, if you can believe that," the two-time NCAA championship coach said. "He could have scored and rebounded even more. When he gets in even better shape physically, he'll be able to get more involved in transition and get set up down there."

As a No. 7 seed in last season's NCAA tournament, Florida made a surprise run to the Elite Eight. From that team, Donovan returns a frontcourt featuring Patric Young, Erik Murphy and Will Yeguete. It might be the only group of big men in the SEC comparable to Tennessee's trio of Stokes, Jeronne Maymon and Kenny Hall.

Donovan said Stokes is the difference, calling him, "One of the best frontcourt players in the country, without a doubt."

Having fallen to the Vols twice in the 2011-12 regular season, that's not a comforting thought for the Florida coach.

"You look at what Tennessee has returning and then add (Stokes) after one year in the system and they may be the best team in our league and maybe one of the best in the country," Donovan said. "A lot of that starts with Jarnell."

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Comments » 76

Titan writes:

I know this is bordering on blasphemy, but I've always kind of liked Donovan. Maybe it's easier to say that because we have had a lot of success against them the past few years. He earned my respect when he joined Bruce to do the cancer fund raiser the night before Florida played at TBA. Classy move and I'm not sure how many other SEC coaches would be doing something like that with the opposing coach the night before a game.

Slystone writes:

If we sure up the point guard play this fall this is could be a top 10-15 team. It all hinges on the point play.

HATEaBAMA writes:

in response to Titan:

I know this is bordering on blasphemy, but I've always kind of liked Donovan. Maybe it's easier to say that because we have had a lot of success against them the past few years. He earned my respect when he joined Bruce to do the cancer fund raiser the night before Florida played at TBA. Classy move and I'm not sure how many other SEC coaches would be doing something like that with the opposing coach the night before a game.

Agree completely. A class act all the way. Great job Jarnell! Can't wait for the season. Cuonzo is the real deal.

givehim6 writes:

Eddie Munster looks a bit green.

RobbieT writes:

This is no less than the 2nd spout off I've heard him preach concerning UT. Am beginning to wonder if he's got a thang for the orange. Or, is he just trying to inch his way back toward KY.

eduardo writes:

16 weeks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

miatatom writes:

I'm really excited to see the Vols take the court. This is going to be a big year for us.

UTistheOLEMISSoftheEAST writes:

in response to givehim6:

Eddie Munster looks a bit green.

Multiple trips to the NCAA Tournament and back to back National Championships will do that to a coach. Too bad you've never had a coach "look a bit green". Success is so sweet. Failure is.....well....you know. Enjoy The Munsters.

chrisw2967 writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

as long as the gayfors are on the schedule then Tn has a chance.

tennrich1 writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

..and that scares you just a bit!...funny...silly BOY!

tennrich1 writes:

in response to UTistheOLEMISSoftheEAST:

Multiple trips to the NCAA Tournament and back to back National Championships will do that to a coach. Too bad you've never had a coach "look a bit green". Success is so sweet. Failure is.....well....you know. Enjoy The Munsters.

Somebodies scared just a bit...can you imagine what level of idiotship it takes to say stuff like this??? funny...silly BOY!

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to Titan:

I know this is bordering on blasphemy, but I've always kind of liked Donovan. Maybe it's easier to say that because we have had a lot of success against them the past few years. He earned my respect when he joined Bruce to do the cancer fund raiser the night before Florida played at TBA. Classy move and I'm not sure how many other SEC coaches would be doing something like that with the opposing coach the night before a game.

He's a good coach and a good man. You can't hate a person for where he's stuck.

However I don't think UT can beat Martin but we'll just have to wait and see.

PHAT_VOL writes:

Donovan is a class guy and will proably spend all of his life at a school where most could care less about basketball. More class than any of Floridas football coaches thats for sure.

Most florida fans will say yea he is a good coach and a stand up guy but who cares about basketball

I would really like to see him coach some where else for more than one reason.
GO VOLS !!!

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Good job Stokes. Now come home and get ready for some gator gigging! Can you gig gators? I mean they're sorta like frogs.

Biggie writes:

in response to Titan:

I know this is bordering on blasphemy, but I've always kind of liked Donovan. Maybe it's easier to say that because we have had a lot of success against them the past few years. He earned my respect when he joined Bruce to do the cancer fund raiser the night before Florida played at TBA. Classy move and I'm not sure how many other SEC coaches would be doing something like that with the opposing coach the night before a game.

I agree. CBD has always been a class act. Never makes excuses, never talks badly about other players.

givehim6 writes:

in response to UTistheOLEMISSoftheEAST:

Multiple trips to the NCAA Tournament and back to back National Championships will do that to a coach. Too bad you've never had a coach "look a bit green". Success is so sweet. Failure is.....well....you know. Enjoy The Munsters.

What ever, he still can't beat UT! Not in team wins and now recruiting.

givehim6 writes:

in response to Salma_Hayek_is_my_Wife:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Back to back happend what year? was not this 10 or so years ago? His better day have come and gone. As for UT up is the only way we are going!

givehim6 writes:

in response to PHAT_VOL:

Donovan is a class guy and will proably spend all of his life at a school where most could care less about basketball. More class than any of Floridas football coaches thats for sure.

Most florida fans will say yea he is a good coach and a stand up guy but who cares about basketball

I would really like to see him coach some where else for more than one reason.
GO VOLS !!!

Class? Was not it him that locked his team out of UF's sports complex few years ago for just getting to the NIT and loseing after only 2 wins? Guess in UF if that is the meanest thing, it makes you Classy

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to givehim6:

Class? Was not it him that locked his team out of UF's sports complex few years ago for just getting to the NIT and loseing after only 2 wins? Guess in UF if that is the meanest thing, it makes you Classy

Give him 6 grammar lessons,

Try "was it not he who" ...........then we'll listen.

voloffaith writes:

in response to Salma_Hayek_is_my_Wife:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Is happend really a word? The ending wasn't happy so it becomes happend.....Congrats on Elite 8.....that with the guys name that I can't pronounce out injured...speaks volumes to Coach Donovan's system even though we beat them twice...go figure...anyway keep growing Jarnell cos alot is expected from you by many this year...

The_Ron_Burgundy writes:

You can pretend to hate Billy Donovan but the fact of the matter is he is a quality coach that runs a good program. He is a good guy and that is evident in his relationships he still maintains with his old assistant coaches. He produces pro level talent and wins games. Not a Florida fan by any means, but gotta respect Billy Donovan.

As for Stokes and UT basketball, the future next year is VERY bright. As Donovan said, were going to be a force. Golden's improvement from freshman to sophomore year was incredible and he still has lots of upside. Mcbee will give hard minutes in his senior year along with kenny hall. Mcrae needs to be the scorer that he is capeable of being. And in the front court, I don't know who can match up with Stokes and Maymon. Should be a fun year for Tennessee basketball.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Yeah, another sweep over floor-ida looms.

voloffaith writes:

in response to The_Ron_Burgundy:

You can pretend to hate Billy Donovan but the fact of the matter is he is a quality coach that runs a good program. He is a good guy and that is evident in his relationships he still maintains with his old assistant coaches. He produces pro level talent and wins games. Not a Florida fan by any means, but gotta respect Billy Donovan.

As for Stokes and UT basketball, the future next year is VERY bright. As Donovan said, were going to be a force. Golden's improvement from freshman to sophomore year was incredible and he still has lots of upside. Mcbee will give hard minutes in his senior year along with kenny hall. Mcrae needs to be the scorer that he is capeable of being. And in the front court, I don't know who can match up with Stokes and Maymon. Should be a fun year for Tennessee basketball.

EWE are 'ANCHORMAN'........and you are a very c-a-p-a-b-l-e poster of only 3 to date....what was the previous name? Why did ewe get bannned? Doesn't matter to all the lil chillies....Jarnell showed up and could have had more points if hitting more charity stripe opportunity's........

LiveFaith writes:

in response to Titan:

I know this is bordering on blasphemy, but I've always kind of liked Donovan. Maybe it's easier to say that because we have had a lot of success against them the past few years. He earned my respect when he joined Bruce to do the cancer fund raiser the night before Florida played at TBA. Classy move and I'm not sure how many other SEC coaches would be doing something like that with the opposing coach the night before a game.

Same here. Class act and highly successful. Glad we've been fortunate against him.

GerryOP writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Had no excuse last year ... sweep, sweep, sweep...

GerryOP writes:

Classy lil' BillyD? The same lil' BillyD that painted orange T's in all of the locker room urinals? I doubt if the folks in Orlando would call lil' BillyD classy.

AtopTheHill06 writes:

We have our annual beatdowns of the gators in Bball, to look forward to.

GerryOP writes:

in response to LiveFaith:

Same here. Class act and highly successful. Glad we've been fortunate against him.

Sir, I know you're only trying to be PC gentle, but it kinda bothers me when I hear folks classifying wins as "fortunate." In sports, there are only winners and losers ... period. I put "fortunate winners" in the same category as "moral victories." They don't exist.

I won't go into it here, but I also don't accept the thinking where if we lose, we suck. If we win, we're lucky.

I'll step down off my soap box now. Thanks for listening. Have a glorious day and a blessed weekend.

GerryOP writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Sir, I stand corrected. It was lil' Urbie who did it.

And you're right, the best UT basketball players sit down to pee. It was our 2nd best basketball team ... sweep, sweep, sweep.

SevenT writes:

Stokes should have taken the offer to play for Calipari at Kentucky.

I suppose he wanted to be a big fish in a small Tennessee pond, this will limit his chance to get the training he will need for a NBA career.

GerryOP writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Yup, we've lost a bunch and won a few. But there were no fotunate wins!

One fact remains when you're talking about lil' Billy D and UF bball. UT's 2nd best basketball team did it ... sweep, sweep, sweep.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to SevenT:

Stokes should have taken the offer to play for Calipari at Kentucky.

I suppose he wanted to be a big fish in a small Tennessee pond, this will limit his chance to get the training he will need for a NBA career.

Or he wanted to kick Cal's arse wearing Orange..It's going to happen this year, UT sweeps the Cat's in BB after they roast them in FB on turkey day weekend..GBO!!

GerryOP writes:

I see it's Obnoxious Troll Day on GVX.

Ya'all have fun!

GerryOP writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

Or he wanted to kick Cal's arse wearing Orange..It's going to happen this year, UT sweeps the Cat's in BB after they roast them in FB on turkey day weekend..GBO!!

Bipolar, Stokes didn't want to play for a coach who holds the record for vacated season records.

hikerdude writes:

in response to Titan:

I know this is bordering on blasphemy, but I've always kind of liked Donovan. Maybe it's easier to say that because we have had a lot of success against them the past few years. He earned my respect when he joined Bruce to do the cancer fund raiser the night before Florida played at TBA. Classy move and I'm not sure how many other SEC coaches would be doing something like that with the opposing coach the night before a game.

Not blasphemy at all. He is a class act and a good coach. I still enjoy beating them like a drum.

givehim6 writes:

in response to orangecountyvols:

Give him 6 grammar lessons,

Try "was it not he who" ...........then we'll listen.

Did not know govols was an english 101 class I thought this was east Tenn. But I will keep this in mind ok bubby.

givehim6 writes:

in response to Salma_Hayek_is_my_Wife:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Stay tuned for next few years you'll see what I mean.

MetroplexMojo writes:

Evidenced by his tenure and success, Donovan knows what he is doing and knows his team. By praising Tennessee and Stokes, Donovan is trying to manage expectations. He knows his teams tend to do better when they are under the radar. His team started off 2011-2012 very highly ranked, got beat like a drum several times, got wrote off, and was a 5 minute choke job away from the Final 4.

Razzle writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Who ?

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to GerryOP:

Bipolar, Stokes didn't want to play for a coach who holds the record for vacated season records.

No doubt, these tucky&gatortards are green with envy over Stokes..I can't wait to see what CCM has in store for him and the Vols this season..HBTV!

underthehill writes:

Florida returns a stong experienced front line..don't underestimate Donavan..UT and Fla could have the top 2 teams in the SEC..I know KY has signed their usual ..except there is only one Anthony Davis and I have to see it before I believe they have signed anything in his class..I look for Fla and Ky to handle the cats in spite of their coach crying about too much physical play..like Vandy gave em in the
SEC tournament..

underthehill writes:

in response to SevenT:

Stokes should have taken the offer to play for Calipari at Kentucky.

I suppose he wanted to be a big fish in a small Tennessee pond, this will limit his chance to get the training he will need for a NBA career.

His parents wanted him to be exposed to a coach with character..which is not only useful in the NBA but for your lifetime...need I say more...

SevenT writes:

in response to underthehill:

His parents wanted him to be exposed to a coach with character..which is not only useful in the NBA but for your lifetime...need I say more...

Did you support the Lane Kiffin hire?

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to SevenT:

Did you support the Lane Kiffin hire?

Another former UT coach that was undefeated against tucky..HBTV!!

HighPlainsVol writes:

This can't be true. According to most on this forum, nothing good comes out of Memphis. Vols better learn to recruit Memphis, especially for BB talent.

AllforTenn writes:

in response to RobbieT:

This is no less than the 2nd spout off I've heard him preach concerning UT. Am beginning to wonder if he's got a thang for the orange. Or, is he just trying to inch his way back toward KY.

Back toward Ky. ?? When was he there?

lemme_axya_this writes:

in response to AllforTenn:

Back toward Ky. ?? When was he there?

Hay they're Awlfourtin how is hour cowardly little drive-buy grammar critic today?

RobbieT writes:

in response to AllforTenn:

Back toward Ky. ?? When was he there?

Assistant coaching staff at Kentucky 1989 - 1994

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

How would you know all this since you troll this site 24/7

UT4prez writes:

Watch the expectations this coming year Vols fans. I'm not saying we shouldn't expect a better year overall. Expecting a better year in the conference may be a little much though. They had a great year in SEC play. I think 22 regular season wins sounds about right and will get us in the big dance. It sounds like everyone is expecting crazy things and I just don't see us improving 10 games or anything like that. This team plays hard and plays as a team. They aren't oozing with talent in my opinion. I can't wait to see how coach develops them this year though. If McRae and Stokes take big steps forward then they may surpass my prediction.

On Billy D, hats off to him. Great tourney coach. I thought UF would go down early due to their undisciplined play but he got them firing on all cylinders when it mattered most. UF hasn't made the NCAA tourney consistently the last several years but it seems they usually do well when they get in. UF was a better team than UT last year but UT matched up well so we won both games. This year I believe UT will be the better team.

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