Cuonzo Martin, Billy Donovan, Mike Anderson, Josh Pastner, John Calipari or Jim Calhoun might have a big present under the tree this year. How big of a boost would it be to get the services of 6-foot-8 ESPNU 100 power forward Jarnell Stokes (Memphis, Tenn./Southwind) in January? It could happen.
"I've set myself up to go to college midyear,” Stokes told the Memphis Commercial Appeal.” I really don't know yet, but that's definitely an option," said Stokes, who's considering the University of Memphis along with Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee.
"I have other options that me and my dad don't want to reveal. I walk by faith and not by sight, so I'm just waiting on God to give me the word on what's my next option."
Stokes left Central High during the summer but was declared athletically ineligible to play for Southwind. Initially, he was content to sit out his senior season but now, he sounds resided to getting to campus as soon as possible.
“It’s something we’ve been talking with him about a lot,” one coach recruiting Stokes told ESPN. “He’s in good shape because he’s been working out with the team and sounds like he wants to do it.”
Stokes was at Tennessee over the weekend.
Secret ingredient: watching sports
For the last few months, I’ve been able to reconnect with John Wall, the Washington Wizards franchise player. The Raleigh native has been omnipresent and with the high school season in full swing, he’s been out on the town. His presence is great for the kids and he’ll be missed, now that the NBA lockout is over.
The other night, I ran into Wall at Clayton High where he was watching his nephew. After the game, we talked about some local guys and the UNC-UK game. John’s always got an opinion and to this day, he keeps up with the high school scene. On the ride home, something dawned on me. Wall’s a straight-up basketball junkie.
Some stars like to play. I’ve heard stories that Allen Iverson would play anywhere, anytime back in the day. However, not everyone enjoys going to games as much as Wall or Chris Paul. I remember calling Wall when he was a senior in high school. He lives about 15 miles from me and there was a tornado about to hit downtown relatively close to his house. I dialed his number just to make sure he was safe. I found out John was oblivious to the oncoming storm because he was watching re-runs of the girls high school state championship game. Seriously.
Six years before Wall, the state of North Carolina produced Paul. The Hornets superstar is right there with Wall in terms of his basketball addiction. He loves going to games and not only sponsors an AAU team; he’s constantly on the road with them during the summer. In his home, Paul has a wall of TVs and regularly rushes home from his own games to sit in front of the TV and watch the rest of the NBA games that are on. He also follows a lot of the kids who attended his point guard camp each summer.
With Wall and Paul, you can set your watch by them: they’re always watching and love the game.
In addition to their basketball addiction, they are sports freaks. Wall contemplated jetting to Atlanta after the UK-UNC game to see a former AAU teammate who plays football for LSU. Paul is a huge Cowboys fans and watches as much sports as he can find time for.
What am I getting at? Paul and Wall’s addiction to basketball, competing and sports is a trait that I believe helps them in their hoops careers. They don’t just love to play and compete; they love to watch other people do it. These guys have a thirst to get better and deep passion for the game that doesn’t cease once the clock runs out.
You’d be amazed at how many top-level prospects don’t share their enthusiasm. There’s a big difference in playing the game and loving the game. As an evaluator, you’re constantly taking in information about players. It may sound simplistic, but the great ones seem to have an appreciation for sport in general. When you see Wall and CP3 in the stands, it’s not a publicity stunt. These guys are there to support the athletes and watch the games. They can’t help themselves, they have the means to support their habit and they are addicted to sport.