published Thursday, February 20th, 2014

UTC junior forward Lance Stokes plays critial role that doesn't show up in the stats

UTC forward Lance Stokes shoots during warmups at McKenzie Arena in this file photo.
UTC forward Lance Stokes shoots during warmups at McKenzie Arena in this file photo.
Photo by C. B. Schmelter /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The official statistics never reveal whether Lance Stokes played a good game for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

He plays the "Mad-Man" position.

So his job isn't to score -- unless he gets the chance.

It's to be the point-man on UTC's press, deflect passes, tip out rebounds or grab them himself, guard the oppositions center when the Mocs play man-to-man and yell at his teammates about where opposing players are going when the Mocs play a zone.

It's not a glorious position.

He has scored more than 10 points just three times this season. Stokes' career high of rebounds is eight, and the most shots he's taken in a game this season is seven.

And that's OK with him.

"The things I do a lot of times isn't stuff that comes up in a stat-sheet," the junior forward said. "For me, a good game is if I know everything the other team is doing and telling my teammates, if I'm getting a lot of deflections and if I can generate a steal for Casey [Jones] to get an amazing dunk.

"And timely rebounding, sometimes just tipping it to Z [Mason] or Casey."

Stokes played one of his best games of the season last Friday in the Mocs' 83-73 win over Western Carolina. He started, played 36 minutes, scored five points grabbed six rebounds, had one assist, two turnovers and a steal.

"His energy really helped us," head coach Will Wade said. "Our defense is better when he's in there. He communicates and he has a good feel for what we're doing. He helped us getting guys in position and letting everybody know where the cutters were. Offensively, he pounded the glass and kept balls alive."

A similar performance would help the Mocs (16-11, 10-2 SoCon) tonight when they face Georgia Southern (11-16, 4-8) because GSU guards Jelani Hewitt -- who leads the league in scoring -- and Tre Bussey are among the best in the league.

"They're a tough out for us," said Stokes who has been part of a team that's lost four straight games to GSU. "They have age and experience."

Stokes' experiences as the son of a 10-year NFL veteran -- Fred Stokes who started for the Redskins at defensive end in the 1992 Super Bowl -- have helped him play his role on this UTC team.

Stokes is not UTC's star player. But he is an important player after starting the first 11 games of the season then being replaced by Martynas Bareika for 14 games before returning to the starting lineup on Friday.

"I told Lance early in the year what we needed from him, and he's fully bought into that," Wade said. "He knows who he is. He has a good feel for himself.

"He plays to his strengths."

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or at 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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