Every season there is a lot of talk about impressive freshman in college basketball.
Over the last five years these freshman are usually on a John Calipari coached team or at another historic program. But, in the past two seasons Tennessee is starting to add their name to the list of schools that are landing high caliber players that can contribute as soon as they step on campus.
There is no better example than Jarnell Stokes and what he was showed against Kentucky.
The No. 2 Wildcats have had lots of talk surrounding their new crop of diaper dandies and what they have been doing to teams this season. The praise is well deserved, but the storyline for Tennessee fans coming into Saturdays game against their arch rivals was whether the early enrollee, Stokes, would see action against the 'Cats.
Not only did Stokes play, but he played a significant amount of minutes and produced accordingly. Stokes finished with nine points and four reboundsA scared man is a dead man. I felt like I could do it. I wouldn't be out here if I didn't feel like I could. - Jarnell Stokes, on his first college game..
Stokes signed with Tennessee on Dec. 23, started practicing on Jan. 9 and he came in and was an immediate difference maker for the Volunteers (8-9, 1-2 SEC).
Like senior guard Cameron Tatum said, "if you can play ball, you can play ball."
There is plenty of upside to Stokes, but that's not to say there aren't holes in his game.
Stokes was stripped down on the block multiple times down the stretch as he went up for a basket. Playing against SEC teams, especially a team that is in the top-5, being strong with the ball is essential. Stokes also struggled on the defensive end not fully understanding the Vols scheme or how to attack players of Kentucky's caliber defensively.
"There were a couple breakdowns," said head coach Cuonzo Martin. "Once, I think they had Darius Miller there, and we switched one through four. Jarnell hedges him and we got lucky, he missed the three."
Making mistakes isn't a good thing, but the upside has to have Martin excited for the rest of the year. With more time in the program and in the gym Stokes is only going to get more comfortable with his teammates and the differences of the college game.
Stokes has only played 17 minutes on the collegiate level so the freshman is likely to have his bumps in the road during upcoming SEC games, but he added a dimension and a scoring threat that the Volunteers were badly missing.
Tennessee is in the middle of pack when it comes to scoring in the SEC, 73.4 points per game average. With a playmaker like Stokes on the court Tennessee could make noise moving forward in the SEC season.
After an upset win against Florida last week and going toe-to-toe with No. 2 this week teams are going to start paying attention to Tennessee.
And don't expect the 6 foot 8 inch freshman to back down against the tough competition.
"A scared man is a dead man," said Stokes. "I felt like I could do it. I wouldn't be out here if I didn't feel like i could."