Jarnell Stokes on sophomore surge since Cuonzo Martin stood up for him

Tennessee's Jarnell Stokes (5) drives to the basket against Arkansas' Coty Carke (4) during the first half an NCAA college basketball game in Fayetteville, Ark., Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)

Tennessee's Jarnell Stokes (5) drives to the basket against Arkansas' Coty Carke (4) during the first half an NCAA college basketball game in Fayetteville, Ark., Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)

Cuonzo Martin on the Vols' road win

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Cuonzo Martin credits Jarnell Stokes.

Jarnell Stokes credits Cuonzo Martin.

Either or, Tennessee men's basketball has found the Stokes it's been searching for.

Following a 62-56 loss at Ole Miss six games ago, Martin was left incensed. Stokes, in his estimation, was being handicapped on both ends of the floor by SEC officials. The loss to the Rebels pushed Martin past the breaking point.

A phone call was made to Gerald Boudreaux, the SEC's coordinator of men's basketball officials. Alluding to Stokes' 6-foot-8, 270-pound frame, Martin told Boudreaux, "He's big, allow him to be big."

That call now stands as the preface to the best five-game stretch in Stokes' 39-game collegiate career. He hasn't had a game without a double-double since.

"It's been totally different," Stokes said Sunday, standing outside the UT locker room, fresh off a 20-point, 10-rebound outing in the Vols' 66-61 win at South Carolina.

Stokes claims everything has changed since Martin took up his cause.

Martin, meanwhile, cites Stokes' willingness to wear his metaphorical "hardhat" to "work" every day.

Six of one, half a dozen of the other. Martin piped up his voice for Stokes, and Stokes responded by stepping up his game. The sophomore power forward is averaging 17.6 points, 68.9 percent shooting and 12 rebounds during UT's last five outings.

Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings has surely noticed the transformation. Four games ago, Stokes notched 19 points, 11 rebounds in a 58-57 Tennessee win over the Commodores. He's been just as impressive in the three games since.

"He's playing like a first-round draft pick right now," said Stallings, whose Commodores (9-13, 3-7 SEC) will play host to Tennessee (12-10, 4-6) Wednesday (TV: MyVLT, 8 p.m.) in Nashville, "He's playing like an absolute stud."

At this time last year, after topping out at a season-high average of 12.0 points per game in mid-January, Stokes was down to 8.3 points per game. This season, he's going in the right direction. After averaging just 10.7 points per game through mid-January, he's now at 12.4 and rising.

Similar numbers exist in rebounds, minutes per game and field-goal percentage.

Sophomore slump? More like a sophomore surge.

It's all started on the glass.

On the season, Stokes has accounted for 29.7 percent of the Vols' offensive rebounds and 20.7 percent of defensive rebounds. In the last five games? He's up to 49.1 percent of their offensive boards and 29.7 percent of the defensive.

Prior to the recent renaissance, Stokes appeared frustrated at times; lost, even. Five dominant minutes would give way to a vanishing act, sometimes thanks to eager referee whistles. Now Stokes is in control — controlling the glass on both ends, allowing his rebounding ability to bolster his scoring, and breaking free from the double-teams that have caged him for much of his second year in Knoxville.

"I feel freer," Stokes said, soon adding, "I feel like I can be more physical, just not having that fear that you're going to get taken out because of fouls."

Some still believe the opposition gets away with too much defending Stokes.

"I personally think he's still being fouled a lot," UT junior guard Jordan McRae said. "He's shooting probably 11 free throws a game, but it should be up to, like, 18 or 20."

Martin is generally disinterested in returning to the topic of officiating and Stokes. He'd rather laud Stokes.

That's another change.

"It's the work that he's putting in," Martin said. "I couldn't have said that in the beginning of the season. Now you'd like to think projection-wise that he'd be there, but he wasn't at that level. Now he's a guy, OK, every time down we can put the ball in his hands to make plays."

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

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Comments » 27

dvols writes:

seems like a good kid, and a great coaching move!!

lomas98 writes:

Martin needs to stand up for other players when they feel they are not getting a fair shake. Look how stokes responds when coach stands up. There have been a few opportunities where getting a technical to motivate this team could have potentially come in handy. He doesn't have to be real demonstrative like some coaches, but just think what the players would think if he got t'd up one night. It's part of coaching and can be a motivator if used effectively.

VolInIndy writes:

how convenient, stallings planting draft seeds in Stokes' head. i think he wants him gone.

claiborneh writes:

If Stokes can improve his free throw %, that average will significantly increase

FeelVol writes:

in response to VolInIndy:

how convenient, stallings planting draft seeds in Stokes' head. i think he wants him gone.

Oh yeah I was thinking the same thing but my guess is he'll stick around at least one more year,I hope so.Go Vols!!!

brokendownoldvol writes:

Do kids have no personal pride in their game anymore? A coach has to light a fire under their butts to get them to put out? Bernard King brought his game every night. He could not stand to be shown up.

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

I recommend everyone click on suggest removal on I_HAVE_NO_JOB

cdtnladyvols931#663910 writes:

Its about time the officials started letting him play, because the other teams were litterally tackling him. They should have been on the football field instead of a B-Ball court! Stokes was getting fouled and he was getting the foul called on him!

Futurecoach16 writes:

in response to MOD_4_MY_DAY_JOB:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Call him a baby to his face. He'll make you phooey your pants, in turn showing you who the real baby is.

MilitaryBrat writes:

There is an article printed in the News sentinel today, that is from the Tennessean. In the article it says that Stalling used a former player, Lance Goulbourne (current NBA development player) to stand in, in practice simulating like he is Stokes.
How is this not against NCAA rules? Can we have Chris Loften(if he was healthy) play against our defense to learn to defend the three?

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to Futurecoach16:

Call him a baby to his face. He'll make you phooey your pants, in turn showing you who the real baby is.

Witch Doctor say dont argure...use the Suggest Removal button! Witch Doctor say you cant argue with a guy/girl that gets up and starts posting these at 2 am. Witch Doctor say he he/she cant understand what the word "loser" really means. lol
Bones never lie.

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to Futurecoach16:

Call him a baby to his face. He'll make you phooey your pants, in turn showing you who the real baby is.

Futurecoach, I_HAVE_NO_JOB doesn't have the guts. He is a spineless troll

usafvol writes:

in response to MOD_4_MY_DAY_JOB:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

The only loser around here is you little man; don't you have some burgers to flip?

volfan2002 writes:

It takes time to get comfortable with the college game. In total games played he just finished his freshman year. He is playing so well we now have to hope he will come back for one more season. The hope of having him and Maymon along with Hubbs is really exciting. I hope it happens.

dcap8424 writes:

in response to amyinsparta:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

There are calls every coach disagrees with every game. Martin is no different than other coaches in voicing his opinion to the refs, but it's how he says it that's different.

He has occasionally gotten fairly demonstrative on the sideline. He ran halfway out on the court at the Arkansas or Georgia game. Can't remember which one. That would have gotten almost any coach in the country a T. Don't know how he avoided that one. He's also spoken about intentionally trying to get one during a game earlier this year.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to VolInIndy:

how convenient, stallings planting draft seeds in Stokes' head. i think he wants him gone.

I was thinking the same thing, buddy! Personally, I would like for him to stay another year, and I think the odds are pretty good that he will. As far as his game goes, he could stand to improve his defense a bit, continue to improve at the FT line, and maybe add a jump hook and a reliable mid-range jumper. He is also still quite young, having just turned 19, so he may get trimmer, stronger and better conditioned even if he doesn't grow any more. Another factor that can't be overlooked is the fact that he doesn't have quite the same immediate economic incentive to go early. Unlike a lot of kids these days who have come up the hard way, his parents are both educated people with solid middle-class values and lifestyles. It won't hurt that the Vols should have a really strong team next year if he stays.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to VolFanInTheBoro:

I recommend everyone click on suggest removal on I_HAVE_NO_JOB

I'm guessing he is in his last days on this board. People are obviously clicking "suggest removal" on his every post. No doubt he would resurface with another name, but maybe he will learn that it is possible to criticize without assuming insulting things about people he doesn't know ANYTHING about.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to MilitaryBrat:

There is an article printed in the News sentinel today, that is from the Tennessean. In the article it says that Stalling used a former player, Lance Goulbourne (current NBA development player) to stand in, in practice simulating like he is Stokes.
How is this not against NCAA rules? Can we have Chris Loften(if he was healthy) play against our defense to learn to defend the three?

Interesting question. Perhaps if they aren't paying him, it isn't a violation but I don't know for sure. As long as he has been around, I don't think Stallings would have done that, or said anything about it at least, if he wasn't pretty sure it was legal.

ThinkAboutIt42 writes:

in response to MilitaryBrat:

There is an article printed in the News sentinel today, that is from the Tennessean. In the article it says that Stalling used a former player, Lance Goulbourne (current NBA development player) to stand in, in practice simulating like he is Stokes.
How is this not against NCAA rules? Can we have Chris Loften(if he was healthy) play against our defense to learn to defend the three?

Anyone can practice...don't have to be a student athlete

johnlg00 writes:

in response to CheekMustGo:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Well, all things considered, any realistic college star ought to be happy to have a pro career like those of the guys you mentioned. Besides, the list of NBA players who played under the rim yet had tremendous impact on their teams is a lot longer than that. In fact, there is almost no correlation between a player's height and/or leaping ability and his effectiveness as a rebounder. The decisive factors are a hunger for the ball and pursuing it relentlessly. Some great pro rebounders were tall and great leapers, but not nearly all. I don't know that Jarnell will be a pro star, either, but pro player personnel guys will be far less concerned about just how tall he is than they will be about how effective he is in college and how well that effectiveness can be projected to the pro game.

TheRealDragonSlayer writes:

Stokes is going to stay here for at least another year...because Jeronne Maymon will be back, and Stokes knows we are going to have a monster year with him back. Combine that with an experienced Derek Reese, and a seasoned rest of the team, and we will be a very tough out.

sameolvolalum writes:

in response to VolInIndy:

how convenient, stallings planting draft seeds in Stokes' head. i think he wants him gone.

Ditto! Exactamundo! Stallings does NOT care to be facing Maymon and Stokes together in the low post. Who does? How shallow can one be Mr. Stallings?

usnavyvolfan__times_free_press_can_shove_it writes:

Another double-double for the big man tonight!! PH, you still awake? hee hee.

VolGrad writes:

Any victory at Vandy is sweet, but this spanking was extra sweet. Way to complete the sweep of the 'Dores. Vandy was one of the teams our Vols should beat this year, and we got the sweep.

Gotta' keep it going next game against Noel-less 'Tucky.

Go Vols!!!

1volk-nowi-tall writes:

Martin's call to Gerald Boudreux did help allow Stokes to play defense but if you saw the Vandy game tonight you saw how he is still not allowed to play offense and still gets 17-18 points. The very first possession Vandy players had arms wrapped around Stokes and no call was made. Vandy gets a turnover and there is slight contact by Richardson as they drive to the basket and a foul is quickly called. Stokes was mugged all night and still had a double double. What would he be if he was treated the same way as other players.

OwensboroVol writes:

Kids just want to know that someone has their backs. Stokes is playing with more confidence and that is making a huge difference.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to 1volk-nowi-tall:

Martin's call to Gerald Boudreux did help allow Stokes to play defense but if you saw the Vandy game tonight you saw how he is still not allowed to play offense and still gets 17-18 points. The very first possession Vandy players had arms wrapped around Stokes and no call was made. Vandy gets a turnover and there is slight contact by Richardson as they drive to the basket and a foul is quickly called. Stokes was mugged all night and still had a double double. What would he be if he was treated the same way as other players.

To me, the biggest foul problem Stokes had was on offense when he was trying to fight free of those double-teams. He was not allowed to create space for himself, and it was those ticky-tack OFFENSIVE fouls that were most limiting for him early in games, especially earlier in the season. He is strong enough that he can fight free of physical pressure as long as he is allowed to fight, too. I think CCM made the refs realize that it was just unfair that opponents were allowed to rough Stokes up, but he was being penalized if he tried to match that physicality. And if he keeps improving at the FT line the way he has lately, opponents won't be quite so eager to try to get physical with him.

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