Vols hope to steal Stokes

Vols hope to steal Stokes

December 22nd, 2011 by Patrick Brown in Sports

KNOXVILLE -- Tennessee's basketball program earned a much-needed win on Tuesday night.

The Volunteers could get a much larger victory tonight in Memphis.

Five-star recruit Jarnell Stokes will announce his college decision at 6:30 p.m. local time tonight, and UT has a chance to land the 6-foot-8 forward. Stokes' relationship with the Vols dates back to former coach Bruce Pearl's staff, but new coach Cuonzo Martin has kept the Vols in the picture. Stokes officially visited UT in October and visited unofficially when UT hosted Pittsburgh earlier this month.

Arkansas, Connecticut, Kentucky, Memphis and Florida are Stokes' other five finalists.

"I'm saying my prayers 24/7 and waking up Thursday with an answer!" Stokes wrote on his Twitter account Tuesday.

Because he transferred from Central High School to Southwind, Stokes is ineligible to play this season per TSSAA rules. His plan is to enroll early at the school he chooses, and he would be eligible to play in January. That decision is a key factor in Stokes' choice.

Memphis and Kentucky do not have a scholarship available for Stokes to use. He could earn enough financial aid or scholarship money to pay his own way for the hometown Tigers for a semester, but NCAA rules would prohibit him from playing because he took an official visit to the school. That makes Stokes a "recruited walk-on," which aren't allowed to play their first year.

The indication is Florida and UT are in the best shape of the four schools with available scholarships to land Stokes. The Gators have the advantage of assistant coach John Pelphrey, the former Arkansas head coach who has built a long-term recruiting relationship with Stokes. Florida (8-2) is currently ranked 11th.

Of Stokes' finalists, the struggling Vols might be the team that needs him the most, though he'd almost certainly need some time to adjust to a new system and a higher level of play. Stokes has a similar work ethic and abilities to former Vol Tobias Harris, who was drafted earlier this year after one season at UT. Basketball aside, landing Stokes would be crucial for the perception of Martin and UT, which hasn't signed a high-school player out of Memphis since Dane Bradshaw in 2003.