Jarnell Stokes, rest of Vols looking for balance

ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL
Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes goes in for a layup as Kentucky forward Kyle Wiltjer defends at Thompson-Boling Arena on Jan. 14, 2012.  Kentucky defeated Tennessee, 65-62.

Photo by Adam Brimer, copyright © 2012

ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes goes in for a layup as Kentucky forward Kyle Wiltjer defends at Thompson-Boling Arena on Jan. 14, 2012. Kentucky defeated Tennessee, 65-62.

Cuonzo Martin on the play of Jarnell Stokes and playing in SEC

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A place as lopsided as Rupp Arena isn't befitting a man or a team looking for balance.

Too darn bad.

The man is Jarnell Stokes. The team is Tennessee men's basketball.

Both are unsteady. Both are going to Rupp on Tuesday for a meeting with Kentucky.

"When I was being patient, guys were telling me I need to get the ball and go, but now that I'm being more aggressive, guys are telling me to be patient," Stokes said Monday, seemingly coming to the realization as he spoke the words. "I just need to find a balance between the two."

As for the rest of the Vols, a group shambling and sinking through a three-game losing streak, any steady ground will be welcomed. An 8-6 record is unexpected. An 0-2 start in the SEC is disconcerting.

It all goes hand-in-hand. If Tennessee is to take a step forward, the stride will need to come under Stokes' broad shoulders.

"We can turn this around," he said resolutely, knowing a spotlight awaits him in Lexington.

On Monday, Kentucky coach John Calipari reached back to last February to remind everyone of this quote from Stokes: "I want to win at Rupp Arena. I plan on winning, before I leave, at Rupp Arena. I'm saying that on the record right now."

Calipari mentioned the prediction to his Wildcats. Then he asked them, what are you going to do about it?

This year's version of Big Blue hasn't measured up to last year's virtuoso national champions. Kentucky (10-5, 1-1 SEC) is still moored to Calipari's out-gun, out-fun you approach, but his latest cache of freshmen hasn't clicked. A home loss Saturday to Texas A&M showed how far the nation's preseason No. 3 team currently is from reaching bloated expectations.

Don't tell that to the 23,000 some-odd fans expected tonight at Rupp, though.

"I don't have any words for that place," said Josh Richardson, who wide-eyed his way through UT's 33rd loss in 37 games at Rupp as a freshman last year. "It's a tough place to play. We cannot get caught up in the atmosphere."

Richardson, the Vols' top defender, likely will be assigned 6-foot-4 guard Archie Goodwin. The Cats' leading scorer (15.7 ppg) has outshone fellow five-star freshmen Nerlens Noel and Alex Poythress. He's athletic. He's aggressive. He'll be in the NBA next year.

Spurred by Goodwin and point guard Ryan Harrow, Kentucky's unyielding transition attack posts 77.4 points per game.

"You can't allow to let those guys get easy baskets," Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said. "When they get easy baskets in transition, it's a long night."

Calipari's concern is on the baskets that don't fall. The Cats were outrebounded 32-27 by A&M and gave up 20 offensive rebounds in a narrow win at Vanderbilt last week.

The Vols rank third in the SEC in rebound margin at plus-4.7.

"We're going to have trouble," Calipari said. "That's one of the issues we'll have to deal with."

Much of the Vols' offense will again hinge on Jordan McRae, who has averaged 24.3 points over the three-game losing streak. Struggling junior point guard Trae Golden, however, will remain out of the starting lineup for the second straight game, according to Martin.

In essence mired in a sophomore slump, Stokes has been consistently inconsistent through UT's 14 games. Sometimes he's aggressive, but doesn't capitalize on hard-earned free throws (53.1 percent). Other times he's meek, simply jockeying from block to block.

It all goes back to the balance he mentioned.

"I think somewhere inside him, he hasn't said it this way, he tries to avoid maybe getting fouled because he's not a great free-throw shooter and that's something he spends a lot of time on," Martin said. "I just tell him, 'Go ahead and miss the free throws. You've got to stay aggressive and be active.' When he's aggressive, I think that's when he's at his best."

For the umpteenth time, Stokes switched his free-throw style Sunday. He changed his routine to no routine at all. Just catch and shoot.

"I'm keeping it simple," he said.

Maybe simplicity can lead to balance.

"This is definitely a big game for both teams," Stokes noted, "as far as wanting to turn their season around."

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

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Comments » 72

CoverOrange writes:

Stokes needs to realize when he is open and when he is not before he gets the ball. Can the balance stuff. As for FT shooting, do what comes naturally. If you have always done a head fake, cross over dribble, or an irish jig before a jump shot, do that.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Golly I hate being first.

Stokes is the man. He'll be aggressive enough at Rupp. Rebounds and inside out!!

mocsandvolsfan writes:

ps How 'd you beat me Mr CoverO.

thevoice writes:

Balance, maybe. But the three things this team needs, Coach Martin, are:

A passionate Jarnell Stokes. I noticed his passiveness in his first game last year. Hasn't changed a bit. This team needs a leader.

EVERY single player on this team needs to be shooting 1,000 free throws a day, with loud background noise.

Guard play needs help. Either make the three 40% of the time or dribble/drive. Jordan looks decent sometimes; everyone else, zero.

Bonus. Better give more playing time to Reece, or any other guard, and less to McBee.

8inarow writes:

I think the headband is holding him back.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

ps How 'd you beat me Mr CoverO.

And by several minutes, no doubt. It's gotta be the shoes.

8inarow writes:

Why is everyone so critical of McBrick?

underthehill writes:

in response to thevoice:

Balance, maybe. But the three things this team needs, Coach Martin, are:

A passionate Jarnell Stokes. I noticed his passiveness in his first game last year. Hasn't changed a bit. This team needs a leader.

EVERY single player on this team needs to be shooting 1,000 free throws a day, with loud background noise.

Guard play needs help. Either make the three 40% of the time or dribble/drive. Jordan looks decent sometimes; everyone else, zero.

Bonus. Better give more playing time to Reece, or any other guard, and less to McBee.

In a man defense ..expect UK to target McBee..who can he guard..who can't guard him..I don't think that will work..hope I'm wrong..

VOLKING writes:

Season over. Hopes dashed. Team stinks. Cuonzo gone after next season. We'll start over...again. Rinse and repeat. It sure as he!! is hard to be a UT Vols fan these days.

born2ride writes:

Stokes looked good last year but he has declined. Martin is not getting the most out of Stokes and other players.

decades_vol (Inactive) writes:

Would love to see Stokes play like he did in his first game last year---against the Cats at TBA. He just turned it loose and nearly had a double-double against Anthony Davis and company. Please don't make this guy keep taking up space down low on the blocks. Turn him loose!! I'd love to see this kid quieten the KY crowd a little with a few baby hooks. Let Yemi play a lot more minutes with him, and just see what happens.

underthehill writes:

in response to decades_vol:

Would love to see Stokes play like he did in his first game last year---against the Cats at TBA. He just turned it loose and nearly had a double-double against Anthony Davis and company. Please don't make this guy keep taking up space down low on the blocks. Turn him loose!! I'd love to see this kid quieten the KY crowd a little with a few baby hooks. Let Yemi play a lot more minutes with him, and just see what happens.

me too..Stokes has far more talent than he has shown .. a lot of it is Maymon not being there..the other part is Hall gets pushed around too much..Yemi don't..I'd like to see Stokes at the free throw line some on offense..instead of getting doubled down low..

wayne.kearney#1414428 writes:

Stokes and the rest of this team need to get their act together and start playing ball.

VolFanInTheBoro (Inactive) writes:

in response to VOLKING:

Season over. Hopes dashed. Team stinks. Cuonzo gone after next season. We'll start over...again. Rinse and repeat. It sure as he!! is hard to be a UT Vols fan these days.

It's hard if you're a bandwagon fan like you

doctorvol#211700 writes:

he must have a FT routine. His more recent version had some hope, as it was smoother and used his knees, etc. The freeze mid-shot technique had no chance.

Sir_Spanky writes:

Poor ole TN. There just not hardly any count at anything anymore.

crmcm44#321757 writes:

Unfortunately they have balance; all phases of the game are pathetic.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to collegegrovebilly:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

nothing's simple.hehe But I like your spirit.

Stokes AND Hall AND Makan will show up bigs tonight.halgh!! I'm funny.

Ok maybe not but we DO need them to play defense and rebound. Scoring would be nice too.

We especially need the guards to stay with their man. Not just in front but all over them.

We need to get in the lane on offense and draw a hunnert fouls!!! Maybe we make 50 of them and win by my predict...I forget what was it??

UT 57 blue cats 56.

underthehill writes:

in response to Sir_Spanky:

Poor ole TN. There just not hardly any count at anything anymore.

Surely you have not forgotten the life's lesson Dooley taught the Vols Nation..what was it..you can't just tuck your head in your tail and go home..or something like that..Dooley was not all in vain..it appears you were not paying attention..

volaholic45 writes:

I'm not looking for balance. I'm looking for someone to put the ball in the hoop. Someone wearing orange, that is.

brokendownoldvol writes:

Lead feet.

Classof72 writes:

This team is consistent and balanced. Dreadfully so. Each player needs to consider that big-time basketball may not be his thing. The Vols should recruit some basketball players who are actually good at basketball. That would be refreshing.

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

in response to volaholic45:

I'm not looking for balance. I'm looking for someone to put the ball in the hoop. Someone wearing orange, that is.

Simple but true..Knock down your shots and most of the rest of this bull takes care of it's self.

kwcoach writes:

We will lose 70someting to 40something.

westknoxrepub writes:

Once again Martin will be relying on Pearl's players to do something, while the sheep keep trying to tell us he's going to succeed here recruiting below average basketball players.

VOLSnTITANS writes:

Back up the truck...beep, beep, beep...TN basketball has arrived in Lexington to deliver a generous amount of bricks to the community tonight.

whatmeworry writes:

in response to westknoxrepub:

Once again Martin will be relying on Pearl's players to do something, while the sheep keep trying to tell us he's going to succeed here recruiting below average basketball players.

Last time I looked,Robert Hubbs was a 5 star stud.Our main problem is Maymon not playing.He would take the pressure off Stokes since opponents couldn't double both of them.Hall is an offensive liability and Yemi is a good rebounder and garbage man but that's it inside.

hikerdude writes:

If you were a senior in high schol and a really good basketball player, who would you rather play for-Calipari with his modified run-and-gun style or Cuonzo and his slow, plodding big ten style? Thought so. As long as we play this style of BB, the best we can hope to attract is mediocre talent and we will forever be mired in the bottom half of the SEC.

SouthPaVol writes:

in response to decades_vol:

Would love to see Stokes play like he did in his first game last year---against the Cats at TBA. He just turned it loose and nearly had a double-double against Anthony Davis and company. Please don't make this guy keep taking up space down low on the blocks. Turn him loose!! I'd love to see this kid quieten the KY crowd a little with a few baby hooks. Let Yemi play a lot more minutes with him, and just see what happens.

The sad thing is that 5-star Stokes' first game was perhaps his best game. Two reasons for this, either he doesn't respond well to coaching or the coaches are using ineffective measures and methods. Therefore, find a way to coach him or don't say anything and let natural talent take over. He's our best player so the answer is NOT sitting him at crunch time.

Yemi is a good passer and had 3 or 4 good passes inside that cutters could not handle. Our cutters, Stokes and the guards, must handle the ball better in traffic. Else, they end up "weaving and heaving": ie, playing with each other near the half court line and launching a poor shot near the end of the shot clock.

Stop the weaving and heaving. Attack the rim! Go Vols!

orangecountyvols writes:

Vols,

Coach CM tells Stokes to "go ahead and miss the free throws?" Uh, he does that easily enough, don't encourage him.

Let's get ready for the next game. We know how it goes in the sand box. "I've got a big Mac on my head, Noel"......and fellow kittens will probably prevail, but hope not, of course. But just in case, what else is on t.v. tonight?

VolFolks writes:

in response to 9willbesofine:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

....and he'd may be riding the pines on any of those teams.

brod writes:

jarnell stokes shouldn't be sitting on the bench, unless he's getting rest.

brod writes:

in response to whatmeworry:

Last time I looked,Robert Hubbs was a 5 star stud.Our main problem is Maymon not playing.He would take the pressure off Stokes since opponents couldn't double both of them.Hall is an offensive liability and Yemi is a good rebounder and garbage man but that's it inside.

who has he signed besides hubbs? you're right about yemi. garbarge man, like brian williams.

sly_stone99#434111 writes:

Stokes needs a heavy dose of Buck Nasty. When he get's that this team will do better than they are now. But the key problem with this team is guard play. They have no one to run point to where others are able to get involved. Thus the identity of this team appears vague. No, Golden is not the answer at the point. Never has been, never will. Landry on paper doesn't appear to be that answer either, at least not right away. Lopez does fair, but offers nothing offensively. Moore is not a point guard at this level. This is the one area this team and coaching staff has to address. I wonder if CCM regrets not pursuing Chris Jones more aggressively now.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to orangecountyvols:

Vols,

Coach CM tells Stokes to "go ahead and miss the free throws?" Uh, he does that easily enough, don't encourage him.

Let's get ready for the next game. We know how it goes in the sand box. "I've got a big Mac on my head, Noel"......and fellow kittens will probably prevail, but hope not, of course. But just in case, what else is on t.v. tonight?

I see what you are saying, but CCM makes a goodly amount of sense even so. True, Stokes is not a good free-throw shooter. This causes him perhaps to shy away from contact because he doesn't want to go to the line and it gives the other team a license to beat him up because they know he isn't likely to hurt them at the line. However, each foul Stokes draws not only puts an opponent's big men in foul trouble, it also moves the Vols toward the bonus sooner, and some of them CAN make free-throws.

I somewhat agree with the poster who said Stokes shouldn't be on the floor in the last few minutes of a close game. IMHO, this would be where "offense-and-defense" substitutions might be in order. His poor FT shooting makes him a liability on offense, but he is a strong defensive rebounder. I would swap Stokes for defense and Yemi for offense. No, Yemi isn't a polished offensive threat, but he is a good offensive rebounder, sets good screens, and is the best FT shooter of all the big men. As I've said, I don't really expect the Vols to win tonight, but if they can put together a sound enough game to keep it respectable, it may give them confidence to finish strong in conference play.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to sly_stone99#434111:

Stokes needs a heavy dose of Buck Nasty. When he get's that this team will do better than they are now. But the key problem with this team is guard play. They have no one to run point to where others are able to get involved. Thus the identity of this team appears vague. No, Golden is not the answer at the point. Never has been, never will. Landry on paper doesn't appear to be that answer either, at least not right away. Lopez does fair, but offers nothing offensively. Moore is not a point guard at this level. This is the one area this team and coaching staff has to address. I wonder if CCM regrets not pursuing Chris Jones more aggressively now.

It's easy in retrospect to question not signing Jones, but my understanding is that it was more complicated than Martin just not being interested. Jones played his senior year at Oak Ridge Military Academy near my present home in Greensboro, NC. There was a good deal of controversy at that school about the respective places of academics and sports in the school's modus operandi. The basketball season was canceled in mid-year. There was question about how many credits Jones had earned and whether all the courses would meet NCAA criteria. I think he wound up having to go to JC for a year or so for pretty much that reason. Martin wanted to bring in guys who would not be academic liabilities as he was trying to get his program going. We will see how much Jones actually winds up playing this year. It may be that he could have filled a vital role for the Vols, but we will never know. Even if he could fill the role on the court, it wouldn't have helped much if he couldn't be admitted or couldn't stay eligible once he got to UT.

1vavolfan writes:

Certainly some adversity for Jarnell. He could have played anywhere and right now the grass is greener almost everywhere else. Just hope he has enough sense to come back next season, missing Maymon has killed Stokes this season. 18 years old and having to be "the man" isn't for everyone. Stay the course JArnell, next season should be much better.

1vavolfan writes:

This team misses Maymon but also Cam Tatum. He didn't always score but he was 6'5" and could play defense on 3-4 different positions. Instead of Cam at the 2, we often have McBee which is a serious drop off in talent.

UTVolWarrior98 writes:

"I think somewhere inside him, he hasn't said it this way, he tries to avoid maybe getting fouled because he's not a great free-throw shooter and that's something he spends a lot of time on," Martin said.

NOOOOO...HE AVOIDS GETTING FOULED BECAUSE HES SOFT JUST LIKE THE REST OF THESE TULIPS!!!!

underthehill writes:

in response to johnlg00:

I see what you are saying, but CCM makes a goodly amount of sense even so. True, Stokes is not a good free-throw shooter. This causes him perhaps to shy away from contact because he doesn't want to go to the line and it gives the other team a license to beat him up because they know he isn't likely to hurt them at the line. However, each foul Stokes draws not only puts an opponent's big men in foul trouble, it also moves the Vols toward the bonus sooner, and some of them CAN make free-throws.

I somewhat agree with the poster who said Stokes shouldn't be on the floor in the last few minutes of a close game. IMHO, this would be where "offense-and-defense" substitutions might be in order. His poor FT shooting makes him a liability on offense, but he is a strong defensive rebounder. I would swap Stokes for defense and Yemi for offense. No, Yemi isn't a polished offensive threat, but he is a good offensive rebounder, sets good screens, and is the best FT shooter of all the big men. As I've said, I don't really expect the Vols to win tonight, but if they can put together a sound enough game to keep it respectable, it may give them confidence to finish strong in conference play.

When Stokes got to UT ..I thought he had a good looking free throw..now it seems he is on line but a little long..he also had a good looking jump shot from the free throw line area..he never seems to be in position for that shot now..I think he needs to do like Graves is doing for the Lady Vols..show what you can do..quiting talking and thinking..just compete..I don't expect a win but I hope to see a team willing to fight and not back down from any contact..Hall seems to have a problem with this..Yemi don't..

GreerVol22 writes:

Stokes has two things against him. 1-opponets are packing it in around him. They know we don't have shooters so they almost always leave a man open and we brick it. 2-Dat beau is lazy. Stokes act like everyone owes him something and when he doesn't get it...he puts in a 6 point effort.

wigmeister writes:

The coaches are at fault for a lot of this. You have to adapt. They are not teaching the players to improve their skills. They are not teaching the players to adapt. Need to bring in someone to teach the bigs. I also believe Yemi has become a good passer, and our boys should learn to expect the passes and handle them. Must say, Yemi has shown the most improvement over the last year and a half!

sly_stone99#434111 writes:

in response to johnlg00:

It's easy in retrospect to question not signing Jones, but my understanding is that it was more complicated than Martin just not being interested. Jones played his senior year at Oak Ridge Military Academy near my present home in Greensboro, NC. There was a good deal of controversy at that school about the respective places of academics and sports in the school's modus operandi. The basketball season was canceled in mid-year. There was question about how many credits Jones had earned and whether all the courses would meet NCAA criteria. I think he wound up having to go to JC for a year or so for pretty much that reason. Martin wanted to bring in guys who would not be academic liabilities as he was trying to get his program going. We will see how much Jones actually winds up playing this year. It may be that he could have filled a vital role for the Vols, but we will never know. Even if he could fill the role on the court, it wouldn't have helped much if he couldn't be admitted or couldn't stay eligible once he got to UT.

Thx, John. The last I had heard on Jones was Louisville was going after him. Not sure if that was true. Sincerely believe CCM recognizes he needs some cadillac guards in the fold particularly one that can facilitate and run this team.

lomas98 writes:

in response to brod:

who has he signed besides hubbs? you're right about yemi. garbarge man, like brian williams.

He did get stokes last year and has hubbs coming in. You sound like Martin has been here 10 years and not signed anyone. Gosh, this is his second season. Not sure what you expect from him in recruiting when he hasn't coached but 1 full season.

carbonzip writes:

What has happened to Hall? Why is he starting?

johnlg00 writes:

in response to sly_stone99#434111:

Thx, John. The last I had heard on Jones was Louisville was going after him. Not sure if that was true. Sincerely believe CCM recognizes he needs some cadillac guards in the fold particularly one that can facilitate and run this team.

I had also heard that Jones was at Louisville. He may not be eligible this year. I have seen at least parts of several Louisville games this year but I don't remember seeing Jones on the floor. Kevin Ware, another guard committed to Pearl along with Jones, has made at least token appearances but I don't think he is in the regular rotation.

I'm pretty sure CCM knows he needs better ball-handlers and shooters. It's just that guys like that don't always come in the most imposing physical packages. Also, the general deterioration of HS ball, due in large part to the pernicious influence of AAU ball, includes a lack of knowledge about how to train classic PGs. Few coaches at the HS level and below seem to care as much about teaching fundamentals as they do about identifying the best players they have RIGHT NOW to put on the floor to give them the best chance to win. Big, strong, fast guys at every level overwhelm guys with lesser gifts. The former come to believe that they don't NEED to get better at fundamentals, and the latter get discouraged and take up soccer, lacrosse, or golf.

johnlg00 writes:

Meant to say that Ware was at Louisville and is playing some. I probably wasn't clear about that.

born2ride writes:

in response to johnlg00:

I had also heard that Jones was at Louisville. He may not be eligible this year. I have seen at least parts of several Louisville games this year but I don't remember seeing Jones on the floor. Kevin Ware, another guard committed to Pearl along with Jones, has made at least token appearances but I don't think he is in the regular rotation.

I'm pretty sure CCM knows he needs better ball-handlers and shooters. It's just that guys like that don't always come in the most imposing physical packages. Also, the general deterioration of HS ball, due in large part to the pernicious influence of AAU ball, includes a lack of knowledge about how to train classic PGs. Few coaches at the HS level and below seem to care as much about teaching fundamentals as they do about identifying the best players they have RIGHT NOW to put on the floor to give them the best chance to win. Big, strong, fast guys at every level overwhelm guys with lesser gifts. The former come to believe that they don't NEED to get better at fundamentals, and the latter get discouraged and take up soccer, lacrosse, or golf.

Chris Jones is in junior college. He is the #1 rated JUCO player. He plays for Steve Forbes at NW Florida JC. He is a signee and will be playing next season at Louisville. Jones wanted to play for UT but after Pearl was fired he was not interested in playing for Martin.

Stokes feel into Martin's lap. Kentucky and Memphis did not have scholarships. Stokes got bad advise and missed his senior year of BB. He graduated early and wanted to play immeadietly.

usnavyvolfan_on_duty writes:

56% from the field in the firts half? Dang, who kidnapped our Vols?

emailnodata (Inactive) writes:

Tennessee 0 FTs,UK 10 in the first half.
At Rupp.

Whoda thunk??

When was the last time UT went to Rupp and had an 'honest' game called??

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