SEC coaches impressed with Jarnell Stokes story

Andy Kennedy: Freshman's story has been 'glossed over'

Tennessee's Jarnell Stokes, right, and Brandon Lopez, left, arrive at their hotel prior to the SEC Championship in New Orleans, La., Wednesday, March 7, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer, copyright © 2012

Tennessee's Jarnell Stokes, right, and Brandon Lopez, left, arrive at their hotel prior to the SEC Championship in New Orleans, La., Wednesday, March 7, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Martin, Vols arrive in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS — With all due respect to No. 1-ranked Kentucky, Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy thinks there's another national story worth telling in the SEC.

"The story of Jarnell Stokes is really an amazing story, and I think it gets — because of what's happening in Lexington — I think it gets glossed over," Kennedy said at Wednesday's SEC men's basketball press conference at New Orleans Arena. "No time in my memory has anyone done what Jarnell Stokes has done.

"He was in high school, practices about a week, lines up against Kentucky and makes his first four shots, gets a double-double against UConn about a week later, and think about what he has done for the team.

"Think about what he would be if he was with them all year."

Tennessee's jumbo mid-term freshman enrollee will be ready and waiting for the winner of today's game (TV: MyVLT, 7:30 p.m.) between Kennedy's No. 7-seeded Rebels (18-12) and No. 10-seed Auburn (15-15).

The No. 2-seeded Vols (18-13) play the winner of the Ole Miss-Auburn game on Friday (TV: WVLT, 7:30 p.m.) in the quarterfinals.

The 6-foot-8, 270-pound Stokes, who signed with first-year UT coach Cuonzo Martin after graduating from Memphis Southwind High School in December, was recently selected to the SEC All-Freshman team after averaging 9.1 points and 7.5 rebounds in 14 games.

The SEC coaches on UT's side of the bracket that were present in New Orleans Arena made it clear the impression Stokes has made goes beyond the numbers.

Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings wasn't on hand Wednesday; the No. 3-seed Commodores have a first-round bye and play the winner of the game between sixth-seeded Mississippi State (21-10) and

11th-seeded Georgia (14-16) tonight (TV: MyVLT, 10 p.m.). But Stallings had to be impressed with Stokes' 11-point, 14-rebound, five-blocked shot effort in the Vols' regular season-ending 68-61 win over Vanderbilt last Saturday.

Auburn coach Tony Barbee saw Stokes score 11 points and grab four steals in UT's 64-49 win over the Tigers on Jan. 28 in Thompson-Boling Arena.

"It speaks to two things: (Stokes) level of talent, and he was obviously a highly-rated kid, and it also speaks to Cuonzo's ability to prepare him in a short period of time, that's a tough transition," Barbee said. "For him to be able to come in midseason and have the impact he's had, and to change the direction of Tennessee's season, it was amazing to watch."

Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury didn't have to face Stokes when the Bulldogs beat UT 62-58 on Jan. 12. Stokes was sitting on the bench in Starkville, having arrived on the Knoxville campus just one week before.

"He's a terrific player, a big ol' wide body that can step out and score," Stansbury said. "He's been a great addition coming in January and being as effective as he has. Not just making the adjustment to basketball, but making the adjustment to college life."

Georgia coach Mark Fox, one of three coaches to see Stokes play twice against his team, said Stokes' physique has been key to his early effectiveness.

"The advantage he probably had was, most guys have to make the physical adjustment to play in the league, and with the body he has that probably was no adjustment at all," Fox said. "He was obviously much more comfortable the last few weeks than when we played him; he's somebody, under the circumstances, who was drastically going to improve because the more chances he's had to practice, the better he's going to play."

Kennedy agreed.

"Jarnell, obviously, could play college basketball from day one, and just from my own interaction with the kid — I don't want to speak for Cuonzo — but obviously he's very receptive," Kennedy said. "Obviously he's got a very good basketball IQ. You're not able to do what he's been able to do without that.

"So for Jarnell not to have games early that he can learn and play through, for him to do it at this level right from the jump, is amazing," he said. "And I think it's a story the nation needs to know simple because it's, in my lifetime, I can't remember a kid ever coming in and having the success and his personal success transcending his team as dramatically as this kid has."

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

Get Copyright Permissions © 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2012 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Comments » 21

keepitreal4vols writes:

Mike, That's alot of quotes from other coaches. I sense you have been busy stuffing your microphone in people's face.

thevoice writes:

If Vol basketball were a stock, I'd invest now.

BigVolFaninSC writes:

I give Stokes a lot of credit, but I think that the team started finding their identity, also! These factors along with others created a swell that they are riding into the tournament! I love the kid's tenacity, though! He sure doesn't look like most 18 year-olds! GBO!

bvol1inSC writes:

in response to BigVolFaninSC:

I give Stokes a lot of credit, but I think that the team started finding their identity, also! These factors along with others created a swell that they are riding into the tournament! I love the kid's tenacity, though! He sure doesn't look like most 18 year-olds! GBO!

Agree w/you BigVol...and that is called synergy! It's the coach, it's the talent being developed, and then adding Stokes to the mix with really unbelievable potential.

VolzsFan writes:

in response to thevoice:

If Vol basketball were a stock, I'd invest now.

Yes, it is at its lowest point over the last 7 years. It is best to buy a stock when it is at a low. Nice investment advice.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

When we added Stokes we added some new energy and enthusiasm that maybe we wouldn't have had before. But I do think we were coming along nicely before he got here.
Awesome young man. We need him to play well in the tourney without Hall especially. We need all our bigs to play well. REBOUNDS!!!!!

txvolsfan writes:

in response to VolzsFan:

Yes, it is at its lowest point over the last 7 years. It is best to buy a stock when it is at a low. Nice investment advice.

Don't agree, it was at it's lowest point right before the hiring of Cuonzo Martin. If 2nd in the SEC is the lowest point then we have become Kentucky!!!
GO VOLS
TXVOLSFAN

volsfanntn11 writes:

congrats big man......keep it up and the good work you and the team have been doing.....lets go dancin and show them that this is no fluke! gbo vfl!

SummittsCourt writes:

Just think where this team would be if Tobias Harris had stayed one more year... oh well, on to the SEC tourney!

SummittsCourt writes:

in response to VolzsFan:

Yes, it is at its lowest point over the last 7 years. It is best to buy a stock when it is at a low. Nice investment advice.

Volzsfan,
Some people can't help but be stupid, congrats on setting the pace on being stupid.

alfrizzle097 writes:

in response to SummittsCourt:

Just think where this team would be if Tobias Harris had stayed one more year... oh well, on to the SEC tourney!

I honestly wonder if Hopson wouldn't make a bigger difference this year than Harris even though I do believe Harris was the better player. Maymon and Stokes are arguably our two best players at this juncture. Not sure that would make as big of an impact as adding a 6'7" wing player that can shoot the three at 40%. From a scoring perspective, our guard play has been somewhat suspect this year and it really makes the post game that much harder to come by. The loose coverage out front makes entry passes more difficult, and soft double teams are much easier for the other team because they don't fear the three.

Sir_Spanky writes:

It's not unlike the impact habanero sauce has on a bowl of chili. It "elevates" the whole thing and makes it more "dimensional".

Sir_Spanky writes:

in response to alfrizzle097:

I honestly wonder if Hopson wouldn't make a bigger difference this year than Harris even though I do believe Harris was the better player. Maymon and Stokes are arguably our two best players at this juncture. Not sure that would make as big of an impact as adding a 6'7" wing player that can shoot the three at 40%. From a scoring perspective, our guard play has been somewhat suspect this year and it really makes the post game that much harder to come by. The loose coverage out front makes entry passes more difficult, and soft double teams are much easier for the other team because they don't fear the three.

If SH played defense for Martin like I've seen him do it for Pearl, he wouldn't be on the floor to shoot any 3 balls.

springtx_vol writes:

in response to Sir_Spanky:

If SH played defense for Martin like I've seen him do it for Pearl, he wouldn't be on the floor to shoot any 3 balls.

But I believe that Martin would have made Scotty a lottery pick!

Or run him out of school.

But it would have been Scotty's choice on which direction he took.

Tobias would have improved, but would have still been a lottery pick. The only difference is that if he had stayed another year, he would have played more his rookie season because he would be even more prepared physically for the pro game.

GreeneVol writes:

I should have bought UT stock right after the Austin Peay loss...oh well...I just didn't have the guts then!

A potential opponent coach that lauds such praise at this time of year could be (not saying IS) a subtle trap: our guys need to stay hungry & not let the late year success go to their heads - a chore that I'm confident Coach Martin will see to. But remember, we're dealing with collegiate athletes, one of which could still be in high school...

Volfever writes:

If Harris and/or Hopson stayed, we wouldn't have gotten Stokes, and as much as I liked Harris, I'm glad that we have Stokes... GBO!

Tenn_Traveler writes:

Stokes, Martin and the entire team are an amazing story. How well they play together and play for each other is such a pleasure to watch. Now all the other coaches are really bragging on Tenn. This is just another hurdle to manage. Can't start listening to what others say. Stay focused, play hard and the wins will continue.
It's Great to be a Tenn Vol!

Bubba_Knows writes:

in response to thevoice:

If Vol basketball were a stock, I'd invest now.

It is. The Symbol is VOLS

Bubba_Knows writes:

in response to alfrizzle097:

I honestly wonder if Hopson wouldn't make a bigger difference this year than Harris even though I do believe Harris was the better player. Maymon and Stokes are arguably our two best players at this juncture. Not sure that would make as big of an impact as adding a 6'7" wing player that can shoot the three at 40%. From a scoring perspective, our guard play has been somewhat suspect this year and it really makes the post game that much harder to come by. The loose coverage out front makes entry passes more difficult, and soft double teams are much easier for the other team because they don't fear the three.

You beat me to this post. Well said and 100% agree.

tfortennessee writes:

in response to SummittsCourt:

Volzsfan,
Some people can't help but be stupid, congrats on setting the pace on being stupid.

Somebody once said:
"you can't cure stupid, but you CAN bash it over the head with a 2x4"!

johnlg00 writes:

Stokes, Maymon, and all the rest will need to be MEN tonight. Make no mistake, Ole Miss will be a tough out. The Vols can't start slow and hope to reel the Rebs in late. They need to set a tone of toughness and execution from the jump. They absolutely can't go into this game reading and believing the press clippings and soundbites. Andy Kennedy is a cagy veteran, and while I have no doubt he is sincere in what he said about Stokes and the Vols, he HOPES they will come in overconfident and upset-prone.

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features