There is an ongoing trend of talented young athletes leaving college early to play in the NBA. What’s not to like about that? An 18-20 year old gets to play a sport for millions of dollars, NBA teams make money off the player’s expectations, and the player gets to indulge in their childhood dreams. The SEC, more than most leagues (thanks John Calipari), knows the impact of players leaving early. Jarnell Stokes for the Tennessee Volunteers is one of those players in the SEC who has the opportunity to be a high draft pick at the end of the season. Here is why he should not go:
Stokes may have some of the most unrefined talent in the SEC, but he is still lacking in many aspects. Stokes tends not to pass when outmatched, Stokes is shorter than most at his position, and Stokes has a bad habit of meaningless, often times accidental, offensive fouls. However, he continues to improve and understand his role as he plays for Tennessee.
Anyone who watches Tennessee basketball can see that Stokes continues to get better under Coach Cuonzo Martin. In his first season, Stokes was horrible at the free throw line and, although still not a great free throw shooter, tends to make his free throws in clutch situations – a must for a forward because of the frequency at which he will get fouled. Stokes has had five straight double-doubles in SEC play, and shows a tremendous shift in decision making down-low. Stokes can easily score around two or three people because of his strength, but at the beginning of the season he would still try to shoot with the entire defense guarding him. Now, he knows when to pass back out and when to shoot. Stokes is getting better game by game under Martin. Coach Martin has been in the NBA and been around talented coaches and players his entire career; if anyone can turn Stokes into exactly the kind of player teams are looking for in the NBA, Martin can.
Stokes would succeed in the NBA if he left at the end of this season, but if he stays, even one more year, there is an exponential increase in his potential as a future NBA Star, not just an NBA player – Oh, and with all the talent that the Volunteers are returning Stokes will have a clear opportunity to win the SEC if he stays.