published Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Lance Stokes, Zaccheus Mason battle for UTC Mocs' 4 spot

  • photo
    Lance Stokes takes practice shots before a UTC basketball practice at McKenzie Arena.
    Photo by Staff File Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The "thud" echoed through the gym. Play continued -- no foul.

Zaccheus Mason pushed himself up off the hardwood, retreated to play defense and knew Lance Stokes made a clean play on the rebound that sent the former Ole Miss tight end to the floor.

Good play. Good battle.

Stokes won that moment in the Chattem Practice Facility. And he's winning playing time at the power forward position in University of Tennessee at Chattanooga coach John Shulman's system.

Stokes, a sophomore, may start instead of Mason when the Mocs begin their season Nov. 12 against Tennessee Temple.

"I don't know who starts at the 4 spot," Shulman said. "If you go off of paper, 'Z' starts. But if you go off of practice, Lance has been very effective. He has huge energy and he's been rebounding it, scoring it and getting people open and defending everyone."

It's a good dilemma for Shulman. He can play either the bruising Mason or the sleek Stokes, depending on the matchup.

They bring different skills to the system, much like a football coach having two different running backs. Mason is the short-yardage pounder, and Stokes is the speed back. Both have benefits to Shulman.

Mason, who weighs about 228 pounds, can score with post moves against any SoCon defender. Stokes is better facing his defender and the basket with an array of quick-dribble moves.

"I can feel the difference in conditioning, and I can produce more for the team," Mason said. "I have a big responsibility to help this team the best way possible."

Mason, a highly regarded tight end out of Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville, worked this summer to become a leaner and more athletic basketball player.

"He's always been a basketball player, but he had that football body," Shulman said.

Stokes just built up his body, added pounds and mass so he can play against SoCon power forwards even though he was recruited to play a wing position.

"I'm going to be playing against some of the best players in the league," Stokes said. "I feel like I'm strong enough to play my position."

Drew Baker, a junior walk-on, may also see regular playing time to spell the scholarship power forwards. He has earned time in the right situation.

"We're making sure those post guys are getting shots up," Shulman said. "We're changing back to defending, rebounding and getting that ball inside."

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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