KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee basketball player Jarnell Stokes announced Friday that he will forego his senior season and enter the 2014 NBA Draft. The power forward from Memphis, Tenn., was a first-team All-SEC selection as a junior this year. He owns or shares 10 Tennessee statistical records.
The NBA Draft takes places Thursday, June 26, and will be televised nationally on ESPN.
Despite playing less than three full collegiate seasons – he graduated high school early, enrolled in January of 2011 and played in just 17 games as a freshman – the 6-8, 260-pound Stokes leaves Tennessee as one of the most prolific rebounders in school history.
He’ll also be remembered as one of the sparkplugs of UT’s 2013-14 Sweet Sixteen team, which overcame adversity to win 24 games and fight its way to three NCAA Tournament victories for only the second time in school history.
In four NCAA Tournament games, Stokes averaged 18.0 points, 12.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.0 steal. His NCAA Tournament rebounding average of 12.8 rpg ranks No. 1 among Vols who have played at least two career tournament games. He scored a career-high 26 points and ripped down 18 rebounds in UT’s third-round win over Mercer March 23, which clinched the eighth Sweet Sixteen berth in Tennessee history.
“First of all, I think Jarnell is going to go down as one of the best big men to ever play at Tennessee – certainly one of the most dominant rebounders ever to wear the orange,” UT head coach Cuonzo Martin said. “I hope our fans will celebrate his career, because the growth and development he’s shown over the past three years has really been impressive, and I’m proud of the player and man he’s become.
“I know this wasn’t an easy decision for him, but his goal has always been to be a pro, and he’s worked incredibly hard to put that goal within reach. We all support him and know he’ll be a great representative of Tennessee basketball at the next level. It’s my hope that he’ll eventually return to Tennessee and graduate, and he knows we’ll do everything we can to support him when that time comes.”
Stokes appeared in 87 career games, making 84 starts (he made 79 straight starts to end his UT career). He ranks among Tennessee’s all-time leaders in offensive rebounding (337, first), double-doubles (40, fourth), total rebounding (836, eighth), blocks (94, 14th) and scoring (1,129, 41st). The Vols averaged 21 wins per season during Stokes’ three-year career.
Stokes’ 22 double-doubles this past season ranked second among all Division I players and tied the Tennessee single-season record set by Hall of Famer Bernard King in 1976-77. Stokes nearly averaged a double-double for his career, posting three-year marks of 13.0 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.
His 155 offensive rebounds and 4.19 offensive rebounding average as a junior both stand as the best by a Vol in a single season since offensive rebounding statistics have been tracked (1996-97). His 4.19 offensive rebounds per game also ranked third among all players in Division I last season.
For his career, Stokes averaged a school-record 3.87 offensive rebounds per game.
Stokes was a first-team All-SEC selection last season, and he also earned All-District honors from the NABC, USBWA and Basketball Times.
Tennessee has produced 43 all-time NBA Draft picks, dating to 1948. The most recent Vol to have his name called in the draft was Tobias Harris, who was selected 19th overall by the Charlotte Bobcats in 2011.
Harris, who now plays for the Orlando Magic, is one of three former Vols who suited up for NBA teams this season, along with C.J. Watson (Indiana Pacers) and Scotty Hopson (Cleveland Cavaliers).
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)