Swarm of defenders to follow Jarnell Stokes for now

Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes (5) shoots a layup as Kennesaw State forward Aaron Anderson (21) defends at Thompson-Boling Arena Friday, Nov. 9, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes (5) shoots a layup as Kennesaw State forward Aaron Anderson (21) defends at Thompson-Boling Arena Friday, Nov. 9, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

There was one, then two, sometimes three.

They swarmed like flies to light on a summer night.

"This was really my first time seeing the double-team, as far as on the college level," said a wide-eyed Jarnell Stokes after Tennessee's 76-67 season-opening victory against Kennesaw State on Friday.

He'd better get used to it.

Without injured Jeronne Maymon (knee) on the blocks to keep teams honest, Stokes will be the focal point of opposing gameplans. Being the focal point equates to fending off helpside defenders.

The Vols are looking to make teams pay for such decisions.

Stokes — a bruting, lumbering 6-foot-8, 255-pound power forward — is more than just a bump-and-dump big man. Coach Cuonzo Martin has long raved of the sophomore's keen passing ability.

He showed it Friday.

As an extra defender or two swarmed, Stokes was quick to kick. That inside-out offense Martin spoke of in the preseason? This was it.

What makes Stokes such a good passer is his ability to read when to dish versus when to score. He allows defenders to sink before making the pass.

"I would like to take the credit for him being patient but he does that on his own," Martin said. "He does a good job of slowing down and making the right decisions. In most cases with the double team you have to feel it."

Stokes felt his way to five assists.

"That's what separates him from a lot of bigs," said guard Skylar McBee, who knocked down one of his four 3-pointers on a pass from Stokes. "He has that court vision. He knows he's going to get double-teamed and he looks to kick it out of there."

Stokes' prowess as a passer is unlikely to deter teams from doubling and tripling down. Look for it when the Vols head south for three games in four days at the Puerto Rico Tipoff starting Thursday.

The opening opponent, UNC Asheville, is anchored by 6-10 junior D.J. Cunningham, who sat out last season with a knee injury. Cunningham is considered one of the Big South Conference's best rebounders and shot blockers. He'll have help with Stokes.

In game two UT will face either Akron or Oklahoma State. Both have formidable frontlines.

The Zips boast 7-foot senior Zeke Marshall, the 2012 Mid-American Conference defensive player of the year and one of the nation's top shot blockers. The Cowboys will present athletes like Le'Bryan Nash, a NBA prospect, Kamari Murphy and Michael Cobbins, along with 6-11 Philip Jurick, a one-time UT enrollee.

The third game in Puerto Rico will come from a side of the bracket featuring N.C. State, Massachusetts, Providence and Penn State.

The key for Stokes, he says, is balancing his scoring with his penchant for passing.

On Friday, Stokes finished 5-of-7 from the field for 10 points. Seven shot attempts isn't enough. Maymon or no Maymon, Stokes needs to attack the rim, he said.

"It's a big different because knowing the guy is coming, you can't be too passive," he said. "You have to still impose your will as far as being a scorer so that they'll keep double-teaming you."

Stokes needn't worry about not being double-teamed.

Those flies will keep swarming.

Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn

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Comments » 8

BolivrBob writes:

Looking forward to basketball season to get excited about the Vols again. I was wrong about Dooley. He's exhibited twice now he is a gutless loser. He needs to go. Very concerned about the Lady Vols too. It's been obvious to me that Holly is not going to cut the mustard. As she has taken on more responsibility, they have consistently gotten worse. Niki Caldwell is our coach and we need to get her home before it's too late. Looking forward to a Vol - NC State match up in Puerto Rico. Go Vols!!

budd#207344 writes:

Jarnell's intelligence about the need to balance passing and scoring down low show why he will be such a great player. He does understand the game and his role. And he has worked to improve his play. Wish Mr Maymon was back but I think Mr. Stokes will handle the pressure well.

HazardKYVol writes:

Stokes is going to be a very good player and a silver lining to this Vol team, but he will not have help on a day to day basis. He can't do it by himself. Some of the other players are going to have to step up their play or this will be a long season.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to HazardKYVol:

Stokes is going to be a very good player and a silver lining to this Vol team, but he will not have help on a day to day basis. He can't do it by himself. Some of the other players are going to have to step up their play or this will be a long season.

If the other Vols step up the way they mostly did against Kennesaw, they will be OK. The next step in this team's development will be when the outside players learn that they don't HAVE to heave it up when Stokes passes it out, but to look BACK inside when and if the help defenders come out on THEM. Stokes needs to learn to re-post after he passes it out to be ready for those return passes. If the Vols can make that step, they won't sweat it as much when Stokes gets swarmed inside.

Ironcity writes:

in response to BolivrBob:

Looking forward to basketball season to get excited about the Vols again. I was wrong about Dooley. He's exhibited twice now he is a gutless loser. He needs to go. Very concerned about the Lady Vols too. It's been obvious to me that Holly is not going to cut the mustard. As she has taken on more responsibility, they have consistently gotten worse. Niki Caldwell is our coach and we need to get her home before it's too late. Looking forward to a Vol - NC State match up in Puerto Rico. Go Vols!!

As far as I can tell she has recruited really well and thats numero uno in basketball. I think I will judge our coach when she has put together a few recruiting classes and a few seasons. If UT is the job we think it is, Caldwell will be their if we want her.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

I still don't get why every time I read these posts there is always someone talking of firing the coach or coaches? Dooley I can understand somewhat after not correcting the defense this whole season. Warlick AGAIN hasn't had time to porve one way or the other.

Now as to the article Stokes is the man. They might better put all five on him.lol

Patterson84 writes:

SEC Player of the Year?! Go take it Jarnell!

dontdroptheVOL writes:

Can someone answer this question for me? I know its mandatory for young bb players to play one year of college ball, but with Stokes its a little different since he enrolled in the second semester. Is it possible he can get an offer at the professional level and leave halfway through the season if he puts up big numbers that he is more than capable of doing?

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