Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee’s 6-8 freshman, is a remarkable story, and his three-game career is poking holes in the theory that youth, long layoffs and lack of practice prohibit success.
Follow his two-month timeline:
Nov. 21 – Stokes’ appeal to play his senior season at Southwind High School after transferring over the summer from Central High is denied.
Mid-December – Stokes, an honors student, graduates early from high school.
Dec. 23 – Stokes signs with Tennessee.
Jan. 7 – Stokes turns 18.
Jan. 9 – Stokes enrolls at Tennessee.
Jan. 9 – Stokes participates in his first practice at Tennessee.
Jan. 16 – After five practices, Stokes, who had not played in a game since August in AAU ball, plays his first college game, against No. 2 Kentucky in front of 21,678 at Kentucky. He hadn’t learned the team’s plays yet, so coach Cuonzo Martin’s instructions, according to Associated Press, were: “’I just told him, ‘If there’s one guy, shoot the ball. If there’s two guys, a double team, pass the ball. If it’s one-on-one, make plays.’” Stokes hits 4 of 5 shots, and gets nine points with four rebounds in 17 minutes.
Jan. 21 – Stokes, making his first college start, collects 16 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks without any turnovers in unranked Tennessee’s 60-57 upset of No. 13 Connecticut.
—Notre Dame’s victory over Syracuse on Saturday was the Irish’s sixth straight home victory against a No. 1-ranked team, and the Irish were unranked in three of them. The first in that streak was the 1974 victory that ended UCLA’s record 88-game winning streak.
—Pittsburgh, the defending Big East regular-season champ, was 11-1 and ranked No. 13, but has since lost eight in a row and is 0-7 in the Big East, placing it 16th among 16 conference teams.
—Florida State, which was 8-5 after a home loss to a Princeton team that has lost to Elon and Morehead State, is riding a four-game winning streak that includes a 33-point victory over then-No. 3 North Carolina and road victory over then-No. 4 Duke. A key component is 6-10 Bernard James, a former Air Force sergeant who served in Iraq and turns 27 next month.
Most underrated player
—A lot of choices, but one is West Virginia’s Kevin Jones, who is averaging 20.7 points and 11.5 rebounds.
The impression has always been that Duke students typically line up for hours, often overnight, to be among those lucky enough to grab the 1,200 seats reserved for students at Cameron Indoor Arena so they can raise hell. Thus the name Cameron Crazies. In fact, only about 650 students have been attending home games this season, according to the student newspaper. The school has been selling general admission tickets in the student area to fill it.
The small numbers matter too.
0 – Number of losses by Shorter University of NAIA Division I, Middlebury College of NCAA Division III, and Murray State of NCAA Division 1 – the only unbeaten men’s college teams.
1 – Number of two-point field goals made this season by Indiana’s Matt Roth, who nonetheless has hit 61.4 percent of his three-pointers, which leads the nation among those who have attempted at least 40 treys.
2 – Number of losses by San Diego State heading into Tuesday’s game against Wyoming despite losing its top four scorers from last season’s 34-3 team.
3 – The fewest number of blocks Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis has had in a game over the Wildcats’ past 12 contests, including four games of six or more blocks in that span.
4 – Number of times Weber State’s Damian Lillard, an Oakland High grad and the nation’s leading scorer, has scored more than 30 points this season. (He had a fifth game of exactly 30).
5 – Number of times this season Scott Machado of Iona has had 15 assists or more in a game.