Summer trips added new perspective for some UT basketball players

Vols' summer more just than basketball

Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes (5) and guard Josh Richardson (1) fist bump after Stokes sank a basket in the second half against Vanderbilt at Thompson-Boling Arena Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. Tennessee won 58-57 over Vanderbilt. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes (5) and guard Josh Richardson (1) fist bump after Stokes sank a basket in the second half against Vanderbilt at Thompson-Boling Arena Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. Tennessee won 58-57 over Vanderbilt. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Self-imposed exiles scattered from Knoxville to various dots on the map this summer.

Tennessee basketball got around. Jarnell Stokes found himself in Prague, the capital of Czech Republic and home to 1.3 million strangers. Josh Richardson traveled to Jamaica, but not for the beaches. Armani Moore jetted to the Dominican Republic, but not for the shores. Derek Reese landed in China and represented a home country that’s not actually his home country.

They all found their way back. Tennessee’s fall semester began this week and all the above returned as travel guides. On Saturday, they and the rest of the Vols spent the morning at Farragut High School, playing alongside children and young adults with Down syndrome at the annual Hoops for Hope fundraiser.

In recounting their summer comings and goings, Stokes, Richardson and Moore all detailed various trips with differing agendas. Reese wasn’t available to tell his tale. He was back on campus working with the UT student committee.

Stokes went all the way to Prague just to be yelled at by another SEC coach. A year after starring for the U.S. Under-18 National Team in Brazil, Stokes joined the U.S. Men’s Junior National Team for the FIBA U19 World Championships this summer.

Both teams were coached by Florida’s Billy Donovan.

“Since he knows me more, he was harder on me this year,” Stokes said Saturday. “Last year I thought he was nice. This year he was all about business. He pushed me — pushed me hard every play.”

Facing Brazil, Stokes saw what life might be like had he committed to Florida instead of UT. The Americans beat Brazil by 25 and Stokes scored the game’s first five points. It was a good day, all and all, except Stokes, a 6-foot-8 brick with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, had just three rebounds in 17 minutes.

“He basically called me out in the room and went off,” Stokes said, laughing in remembrance and adding, “He cussed a lot, too.”

It all paid off. The U.S. cruised to a 9-0 record and the gold medal. Stokes started each game and averaged 7.2 points and 12.7 rebounds in 12.7 minutes per game.

“Anytime you’re able to play for Team USA is a surreal experience,” said Stokes, who looks trimmer and says he’s down to 262 pounds. “I lost the weight I needed to lose,” he said.

Richardson spent 12 days in Jamaica with Athletes in Action, a Christian ministry. He visited orphanages. He discussed faith. He did service.

“It was a good reminder just to be thankful again,” said Richardson, whose mother, Alice, is an active ordained Baptist minister. “The parts of Jamaica where we went, it’s rough. A lot of the bad parts of America don’t even compare to down there.”

Last summer Richardson traveled to Poland and Germany with Athletes in Action. This year’s team went 3-2 as Richardson averaged 11.2 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.

“It (the service trip) was a lot more involved than last year,” said Richardson, junior guard at Tennessee. “Last year we got into the Word a lot, but we didn’t really get to do any work in our environment. We did that this time.”

Traveling to the Dominican Republic, Moore learned the realities of what can hide behind advertising’s curtain.

“When I thought of the Dominican Republic, I didn’t think of the rough life,” the sophomore guard said. “When you see it on TV — you know, ‘Come visit the Dominican Republic’ — they only show the nice side. You don’t see the hard side.”

Moore spent his time on the hard side. The Georgia native volunteered to join a team sponsored by SCORE International, a sports ministry founded by former Tennessee Temple University basketball coach Ron Bishop, and traveled to the island in late May.

Basketball was only a minor item on the agenda.

“We did more community service than anything else,” Moore said.

He and his teammates filled and hand-delivered care packages. They visited villages, talking and meeting with the locals. They played with children.

“People really appreciated what we were trying to do,” Moore said. “Most of them didn’t have food or if they did, they didn’t have a way to cook it. They were very thankful. It was a great experience.”

As for Reese, he spent a second straight summer playing for the Puerto Rican National Team, even though he grew up in Florida. His grandparents, Anselmo and Irma Montanez, were born in Puerto Rico, which makes their grandson eligible to don the other red, white and blue.

Thus, Reese traveled with Puerto Rico’s Men’s National B Team to the 2013 FIBA Stankovic Continental Champions Cup in China. The team went 3-6 in the tournament as Reese averaged 1.7 points and 2.0 rebounds and appeared in all nine games, including two starts.

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Comments » 9

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Reese didn't play much evidently. I hope the trip went well regardless. For all the others as well. Now get to the gym and shoot free throws and etc.

FeelVol writes:

I'm already pumped for basketball this up coming year, really excited with the players on board and look forward to a break thru year and a return trip to the NCAA tournament.But first things first I hope much success to our brick laying brethren and Coach Jones.Good to be a Vol!!!

VictorKruger writes:

I'm so glad Josh Richardson is a Vol. The guy really seems to have it together athletically, academically and service-wise. It's been a pleasure watching him improve every year, and I'm expecting big things from him this fall!

sly_stone99#434111 writes:

Reese - B team, 1.7 points and 2.0 rebounds. I'll let that soak in among the fans.

rbwtn writes:

I love it, the Kids growing up and realizing Basketball isn't everything in your life but being human is.

reg_mza#219136 writes:

Great experience for all of them regardless of the results on the court. They'll never forget these times as long as they live. #govols

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to sly_stone99#434111:

Reese - B team, 1.7 points and 2.0 rebounds. I'll let that soak in among the fans.

ok I'll bite . Why Mr. Sly would this set of stats need to soak in amongst the fans? I assume you mean UT fans.

We can all read it for ourselves and don't need what I suspect are your explanations. But I actually would like to hear them anyhow. I'm not saying you don't have some good ones. Maybe you do. But from your post nothing occurs to me really other than the possiblility that you may have something negative to add. ?

Some last year DID expect some big things from Reese. Mostly we just hoped for help on our 3 point shooting. We didn't get much then. I don't mind saying it. But he's on our team and my hope is that things will turn out a little better this season. But I'd guess if he doesn't show a lot of promise in practice then he may not see the floor a lot this year as Reese may or may not be a help. But I'm also guessing it may not matter. Still I wish him well as one of our basketball Vols.

johnlg00 writes:

Glad to see that the guys seem to have had a good time and saw some other parts of the world. Perhaps the best news I saw in this was that Jarnell had slimmed down a bit. Maybe that will help him be a bit more active and relentless around the hoop. For all of the guys, I would have actually preferred that they had attended some skill camps, but at least they were doing something worthwhile for part of their summer.

johnlg00 writes:

One other thing that impressed me about Jarnell's play this summer is that, if the numbers are right, he averaged about a rebound per minute of playing time. Even if you figure that he was probably the biggest, strongest guy on the court most of the time, you can't get rebounds with that frequency unless you are really GOING AFTER the ball. And considering that most of his opponents were probably smaller and presumably quicker, that RB/min average is even more impressive. Jarnell doesn't have to be a HUGE scorer for the Vols to be successful this season, but he does have to improve on his efficiency. Having Maymon back to share the load could help a lot.

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