Jarnell Stokes has a change of heart, will play junior season at UT

Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes talks to the media after it was announced that he will be staying with the men's basketball team for his junior year during a press conference in Thompson-Boling Arena Saturday, April 27, 2013. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes talks to the media after it was announced that he will be staying with the men's basketball team for his junior year during a press conference in Thompson-Boling Arena Saturday, April 27, 2013. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL
Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes talks to the media after it was announced that he will be staying with the men’s basketball team for his junior year during a press conference in Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday.

Photo by Adam Brimer

ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes talks to the media after it was announced that he will be staying with the men’s basketball team for his junior year during a press conference in Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday.

Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes talks to the media after it was announced that he will be staying with the men's basketball team for his junior year during a press conference in Thompson-Boling Arena Saturday, April 27, 2013. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes talks to the media after it was announced that he will be staying with the men's basketball team for his junior year during a press conference in Thompson-Boling Arena Saturday, April 27, 2013. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

In his mind, Jarnell Stokes was already gone.

During the second half of the 2012-13 season, the sophomore forward posted double-doubles like gas prices — the numbers fluctuated, but they were always high. The time had come, he convinced himself, for the NBA.

“I was planning on actually leaving,” Stokes said Saturday.

That slowly changed over the two months since the season ended. Reality crystallized. A report from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee told Stokes he was, at best, a second-round pick in the draft. He deliberated, discussing options with those closest to him, including UT coach Cuonzo Martin.

Decision day came Saturday. Stokes met with Knoxville media in the UT basketball office lobby inside Thompson-Boling Arena.

“I think,” Stokes said, hunching his king-sized shoulders, “that the best decision is to stay.”

Just like that, the last piece of Tennessee’s 2013-14 men’s basketball puzzle fell into place.

Begrudgingly or not, Stokes will return to the Vols for his junior season.

“Guys were saying I can’t shoot. Well I know I can shoot. Guys were saying he’s short. Well I have a 7-(foot-)2 wingspan,” Stokes said. “I just have to work on the other things. I was confident enough to go into (NBA team) workouts and show that, but at the end of the day, when you have to sign those papers and send it in, you don’t want to risk your whole career on a couple of workouts. That’s what my decision was based on.”

Stokes was the Vols’ second-leading scorer (12.4 ppg) and leading rebounder (9.6 rpg) last season. His decision to return came one day before the NBA deadline to declare for the draft.

Neither NBADraft.net nor DraftExpress.com, two widely used mock draft websites, projected the 6-8, 270-pound forward as being selected in the 2013 draft. DraftExpress lists him as a mid-second-round pick in 2014 and ranks him as the 15th-best current college sophomore.

“I’ve been really going back and forth,” said Stokes, who is averaging 11.4 points and 8.9 rebounds in 50 career games at UT, including 47 starts. “If I would have made an emotional decision after the season, I would have went ahead and left. That was my plan.

“But I met with Coach and talked

to some people I trust — somebody like Tobias (Harris) and the advice he told me was that I’m a first-round talent so don’t settle for the second round. That spoke a lot.”

With Stokes back in the fold, UT will return 80.8 percent of its scoring and 79.2 of its rebounding next season. Jordan McRae, the Vols’ leading scorer last year with 15.7 points per game, also spurned the draft, announcing on April 13 that he too will return to Tennessee.

That’s the good news for UT. The bad news is Stokes’ return leaves Martin one scholarship over the NCAA-mandated limit of 13. As a result, either one of the program’s nine returning scholarship players or one of its five incoming freshmen will not be in orange in 2013-14.

That said, the Vols happily will welcome back Stokes to a frontline that will see the return of Jeronne Maymon, an All-SEC forward who missed all 2012-13 with a knee injury.

As a junior, before missing last season, Maymon averaged 12.7 points and 8.1 rebounds — nearly identically to Stokes’ numbers as a sophomore.

The two played alongside one another on Friday. Stokes said it was the first time he’d seen Maymon play since a setback from a 2012 offseason surgery.

“I was amazed,” Stokes said. “He still can move and take over the game like he used to.”

And that, Stokes added, played a role in his decision to return.

“I saw how Jeronne was playing and it just seemed like the right thing to do because of how good of a team we can have next year,” Stokes said.

After playing with Maymon, Stokes met with Martin, telling him the news.

“I am excited that Jarnell is returning for his junior season,” UT coach Cuonzo Martin said in a school release. “I thought he had a great sophomore campaign. He did a tremendous job of improving throughout the season.”

Stokes earned All-SEC second-team recognition from both the league’s coaches and the media last year, having dominated portions of the second half of the season. Thirteen double-doubles were produced during the final 18 games.

Against SEC competition, Stokes averaged 13.1 points and 10.7 rebounds per game last year. His 16 total double-doubles were the most by a UT player in a season since Bernard King posted 19 in 1976-77.

Arriving as a ballyhooed five-star recruit, Stokes enrolled at Tennessee on Jan. 11, 2012. He immediately helped right the ship of the Vols’ 2011-12 season, joining the roster midyear and helping power UT to a 10-5 finish to end the regular season.

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

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Comments » 45

lstbodeanvol writes:

good choice....what about all those sources that he was 100% gone ? he has enjoyed beating Kentucky and owning Florida while here....GO VOLS GO STOKES, MAYMON AND COACH MARTIN

keepitreal4vols writes:

Who gets left out of starting 5?
Golden, McRae, Maymon, Stokes, Richardson, or Hubbs?

Colliervol writes:

Good thoughtful choice by Jarnell. Unlike the decision Tyler Bray made. Talk about misjudging people's opinion. I like the way the b-ball team is shaping up for next season. Should be a talented starting five.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to keepitreal4vols:

Who gets left out of starting 5?
Golden, McRae, Maymon, Stokes, Richardson, or Hubbs?

It's nice to be able to choose from among that group. It may be that the starters will be determined by the opposition on a game-to-game basis. If Hubbs or Richardson can be convinced that they will be valuable off the bench, they could go with an established first five from the beginning. Of course if either Hubbs or Thompson look sound at PG, that could add another permutation or two to the mix. Suffice to say, IMHO, if everybody plays up to their potential, the Vols will be able to compete on a basis of equal talent with any team in the country next year.

johnlg00 writes:

Arguably the second-best piece of news in that article is that Maymon seems to regaining his All-SEC form of 2011-2. If he can play at that level next season, the Vols will be a MAJOR load for any opponent to handle.

standfast#211788 writes:

This is a great decision by this young man --both for Jarnell and for UT. It shows a level of wisdom well beyond his young years. If he will work on a 15' jumper and get to the point where he can make 75% of his free throws, the sky is the limit for him. Congratulations, Jarnell. Great choice.

ancientvolfan2 writes:

Tyler Bray had great numbers. His draft performance ought to be a cautionary note to a lot of people. I do wish Tyler the best, however.

underthehill writes:

in response to Colliervol:

Good thoughtful choice by Jarnell. Unlike the decision Tyler Bray made. Talk about misjudging people's opinion. I like the way the b-ball team is shaping up for next season. Should be a talented starting five.

Seems like sometimes it is very hard to see ourselves as others see us..example Tyler Bray..I never thought Stokes was this stupid and in the end I was right..he listened and made the right decision..and I agree the team should be very interesting next year..

cltvol writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

May be true my friend. Just don't know. But I don't know that the NFL guys would pay attention to a blackball all the way up and down the line. Just don't see Dooley as having that much weight on this situation. Hopefully TB can get a good free agent deal and re-commit to improvement as a free agent same way best running back in AFC made it, Mr. Arian Foster.

maciste54 writes:

STOKE[D]

vol98champ writes:

I think Bray blackballed himself when he interviewed with Gruden. His words on preparedness had much more weight than Dooley could ever have. Back to the subject; JS is going to make him and us very proud.

armyvol22 writes:

Great decision! 100 times better than what Tyler Bray's decision was. Punked in the draft. OH Yea.

eVOLved writes:

in response to keepitreal4vols:

Who gets left out of starting 5?
Golden, McRae, Maymon, Stokes, Richardson, or Hubbs?

Who cares, they'll be an awesome team. Ok, maybe Golden, but like McRae the season before last, he will be as important to their success as any starter. It's a sign of a great team.

eVOLved writes:

in response to armyvol22:

Great decision! 100 times better than what Tyler Bray's decision was. Punked in the draft. OH Yea.

I disagree. TB was a great Vol. I wish he could be back next year. I wish him the best, and wouldn't be surprised to see him starting in the NFL at any time.

wilk58 writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You really think Dooley has that power my man.

climberNeeds2workATwendys writes:

the vols are loaded with experienced players who can score.this will be a fun team to watch next year.

lomas98 writes:

McRae and stokes both flirted with nba and ultimately decided to come back and improve their skills. Maymon back in the lineup now. 5 star freshman coming in. Hopefully this isn't a case of 4 different goals from these guys and only one ball to go around and share. Big year shaping up for cuonzo next season to manage all of this. I don't think stokes and McRae came back just to put their hard hats on as Martin says.

Colliervol writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Is that why you've changed your name so many times? Because you've disqualified yourself as a Vol fan so many times? Bray's situation is 100% on him and his sorry a-- surfer boy attitude. End of discussion.

Caspian writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Gotta agree with you on this one. Until he has a better handle, stop the dribbling in the paint. Just muscle it back up.

Colliervol writes:

The truth hurts sometimes. Bray just learned the cold hard facts of life. Maybe it'll help his attitude.

Colliervol writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Funny you never say that when your little buddy Jeffy is disparaging all those former Vols. Can't have it both ways. Which is it?

abnerPeabody writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Just when most of us thought you could not get any more stupid,you show up and prove us wrong.Congratulations,you are the official winner of the Fickel Finger Of Fate award.

Fishpants writes:

Glad he's staying, but I think he'll end up struggling next year. He knows he needs to work on his skills away from the basket if he wants to get to the NBA, so that's where he'll want to play, and Cuonzo will go along with it, especially with Maymon back playing down low. I predict his numbers will drop.

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

My mistake. Thought there was a separate thread about tyler bray.

Snapshot writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You're an idiot. If he had "gave his all for UT" as you claim he would have been one of the first quarterbacks drafted.

brod writes:

nba scouts don't lie.

tennlions writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I'm not happy about TB not being drafted. I'd hardly say he gave his all, though. I'd say he gave as much as he thought he needed to.

claiborneh writes:

First of all, great news he is coming back. But I have to say, with the projection information of mock draft boards not even drafting him, why was this even a discussion? This delay was unnecessary and silly. Now that high school kid who was promised a scholarship by Martin and had a poor statistically senior year will probably get reneged on. How would you like to make that call. Unfair to the kid but this is how big $ college sports works now.

VolMan0402 writes:

Tyler Brey only played 1 complete season for Tennessee and beat nobody noteworthy!!! His freshman year he was started playing mid year and was injured mid year sophomore year while again beating no one of major significance. So yes Brey had great numbers but against lack luster competition. That's what the NFL teams saw. If the numbers he compiled had been against Alabama, GA, FLA and other SEC teams, along with victories against those teams which he didn't have either by the way, the NFL scouts would have drafted him plain and simple!!! He showed Gruden NO respect in my opinion his show taking only ONE note! "He's a gamble and a dare devil!!!" But as a UT fan and alumnus I truly do wish him well and hope he grows up soon. Good luck Tyler and All The Best. I'll be rooting for him wherever he lands!!!

VolMan0402 writes:

Congrats to JS for making a well informed, smart, well thought out, and humble decision!!! Nothing wrong with leaving early if it's your time but I'm glad your evaluation showed otherwise. I look forward to seeing JS and his teammates dominate in the SEC and the nation next year!!! Hope we stay healthy ALL season and keep everyone on the court!!!

John_10065 writes:

This makes our front court one of the most talented, proven and experienced ones pre-season in the league, if not the country.

Add one proven outside shooter, although streaky, and an incoming shooters and this might be a very special year for the Vol faithful.

underthehill writes:

in response to RIGHTISBETTERTHANLEFT:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Stokes is far tougher than Noel and would have a better chance of helping an NBA team as a rebounder than Noel ever would regardless of where he is drafted..just another over rated Ky NBA bench warmer..too skinny to carry a water bucket ..Stokes has the body and strength to rebound in the NBA ..Noels does not..

johnlg00 writes:

in response to lomas98:

McRae and stokes both flirted with nba and ultimately decided to come back and improve their skills. Maymon back in the lineup now. 5 star freshman coming in. Hopefully this isn't a case of 4 different goals from these guys and only one ball to go around and share. Big year shaping up for cuonzo next season to manage all of this. I don't think stokes and McRae came back just to put their hard hats on as Martin says.

I would hope that the guys are smart enough to look a hundred or so miles North to see what happens to even the most highly-touted college players who put their personal success ahead of team success. UK's national champion team was REMARKABLY team-oriented for such a bunch of highly-rated individuals. As a result, they not only won a national championship, EVERY ONE of their starters were drafted into the NBA, even though Davis was the ONLY one who had eye-popping stats, and those were for blocked shots, a defensive stat, rather than for lighting up the scoreboard.

By contrast, last year's UK team, despite being almost as highly-rated as invididuals, lost sight of the TEAM'S goals, drastically underachieved, and most of them will be playing in college for at least another year. I would be surprised and disappointed if any of next year's Vol team puts individual goals ahead of team goals, because ONLY pursuing team goals and being successful in achieving them give a meaningful context to individual acheivement.

Or they could just look at Tyler Bray. No major-college QB had bigger individual stats than he did, but part of the reason he fell in the NFL draft was that the team wasn't successful, i.e., his individual stats didn't translate into team success. Some observers might have even suspected that he CARED more about his individual stats than about the team's success. Basketball observers are capable of making distinctions like that, too. I'm not saying the basketball Vols WON'T have various distractions, but I would be surprised if they lost the kind of focus they will need to be as good as we all want them to be, both as a team AND as individuals.

brokendownoldvol writes:

Great decision. Now he can relax and maybe someone can teach him how to box up, pivot and tear the rim off when he gets it inside instead of trying to dribble. Don DeVoe are you available? Bernard King was kind of good at that at only 6"7" . Maybe he can help. He wants to get more involved with UT I read. This kid needs coaching. The sky is the limit for him. I hate to see him end up like Bray. All the talent in the world and 3 yrs. of absolutely no coaching. Even though he had a bad attitude( I'm sure he knew how bad the coaches were), I wish him the best and maybe a real NFL coach will strike gold.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Fishpants:

Glad he's staying, but I think he'll end up struggling next year. He knows he needs to work on his skills away from the basket if he wants to get to the NBA, so that's where he'll want to play, and Cuonzo will go along with it, especially with Maymon back playing down low. I predict his numbers will drop.

Not necessarily. They could both improve their game on both the inside and the outside if they work on screening for each other, shooting the face-up jumper from the foul line area, and working the high-low action. Neither should necessarily be anchored to one position, either high or low. Both should be much more effective if they looked to move more. It would also prevent the defense from clogging the middle so nobody else could post up or drive the basket. It's not rocket science, it's just putting in a system where both can use, or at least have the incentive to develop, the whole variety of skills good players need these days.

cheetah-vol writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Not necessarily. They could both improve their game on both the inside and the outside if they work on screening for each other, shooting the face-up jumper from the foul line area, and working the high-low action. Neither should necessarily be anchored to one position, either high or low. Both should be much more effective if they looked to move more. It would also prevent the defense from clogging the middle so nobody else could post up or drive the basket. It's not rocket science, it's just putting in a system where both can use, or at least have the incentive to develop, the whole variety of skills good players need these days.

Yes, their movement away from the basketball will help tremendously, and hopefully put an end to those friggin' triple teams every time Stokes' gets the ball. And, even if an opponent tries to double team him, his stats on assists might even go up with Jerome on the loose.

rbwtn writes:

Great for Stokes that he's staying and maybe even through his Senior year. Oh yeah he gets rebounds but from the Outside when you see him shooting under the basket and missing many times in one game there's a problem. The Pros saw it and obviously he needs to play more and spend a lot of time under the basket shooting. He made the correct decision by staying and a College Education at UT will go a long way in your life.

madrigal writes:

Gee, he might even decide to finish his education, since the most memorable (and probably only correct) thing the NCAA has said is, "Most of us go pro in something other than sports." It's always handy to have an education.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to rbwtn:

Great for Stokes that he's staying and maybe even through his Senior year. Oh yeah he gets rebounds but from the Outside when you see him shooting under the basket and missing many times in one game there's a problem. The Pros saw it and obviously he needs to play more and spend a lot of time under the basket shooting. He made the correct decision by staying and a College Education at UT will go a long way in your life.

While I agree that Stokes needs to be more decisive and efficient inside, he also needs to show some semblance of a perimeter game to guarantee a high draft selection in the future. Even 7-footers in the NBA need an outside threat these days. If you have been watching Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies, or his brother Pau with the Lakers, in the playoffs, you would see what I mean. Also, there is more emphasis than ever in the NBA on keeping the middle open on offense so other players can post up, drive, and cut to the basket. Improving his 15-foot jumper would also improve his FT percentage.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to RIGHTISBETTERTHANLEFT:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

hmmm you make sense if Bray was unsigned. BUT last I heard the Chiefs signed him free agent style! "Hype" is the name of the game these days. Many players go unsigned that perhaps deserve a shot. brays at least will get one. Stokes is smarter than Bray I think.

KevDVol writes:

in response to ancientvolfan2:

Tyler Bray had great numbers. His draft performance ought to be a cautionary note to a lot of people. I do wish Tyler the best, however.

Mentally checking out (see: quitting) before the 2011 Kentucky game has cost Bray much more than the victory and "crappy bowl game" that he incorrectly assumed were foregone conclusions.

Scotty Hopson's and Bray's situations are both cautionary tales. Good choice Jarnell.

FanNotSheep writes:

Sad that a basketball story gets more football comments than the sport it was written about. Makes the job Pearl did at UT all the more amazing when you see just what a football fan base it is, even after nearly a decade of disappointment on the gridiron.

I'm pulling for the Vol Basketball program to rise again, and we will see what Cuonzo can do this season. If Maymon is 100 percent and Hubbs is a true 5-star recruit, there's no reason Vols shouldn't make Sweet 16 or Elite 8. Time to show what you got, Coach, because this team should be loaded.

BigOrangeSmoker writes:

think he made a bad choice he needs a coach and that wont happen at UT,martin cant coach his way out of a paper sack

FLORIDAGATORHATER writes:

How was this even a question. Stokes should stay through his senior season as well. Butterfingers is nowhere near ready to go pro.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to FLORIDAGATORHATER:

How was this even a question. Stokes should stay through his senior season as well. Butterfingers is nowhere near ready to go pro.

"butterfingers"??? YOU ARE!

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