Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — High-profile college coaches were all around the gym at the Riverview Park Activities Center for Tuesday evening’s matchup between big men Jarnell Stokes of Memphis YOMCA and DaJuan Coleman of Albany City Rocks.
Kentucky’s John Calipari, Florida’s Billy Donovan, Memphis’ Josh Pastner, UConn’s Jim Calhoun and UCLA’s Ben Howland were among the coaches watching the battle of the big men.
In the end, the 6-foot-8, 240-pound Stokes won the matchup, hitting a gorgeous step-back jumper over Coleman at one point and notching 12 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 block as Memphis handed the City Rocks their second loss in as many games, 71-62.
The 6-9 Coleman finished with 14 points and 8 rebounds.
It has been an eventful couple of days for the Memphis big man, who announced Monday he will leave Memphis Central for national power Oak Hill Academy for his senior season.
“When you’re the best player in your playground, it’s time to find another program,” Stokes, the No. 4 power forward in the Class of 2012 per Rivals, told SNY.tv Tuesday.
“I was the best player in Memphis, so I turned all that down to go play a national schedule, play against guys that’s on my level.”
At Oak Hill, Stokes will join Memphis commit and 2012 shooting guard Damien Wilson, but he knows he’ll miss his hometown.
“I’m turning down a lot of stuff,” he said. “I’m turning down girls, being away from my family for the first time. I’m turning down shot attempts. I know it’s gonna be hard but it’s just something I feel like I gotta get through.”
Oak Hill coach Steve Smith watched the game and said he believes he can help expand Stokes’ game and make him more of a face-up player.
“I needed a guy with some size and he’s a big guy,” Smith said. “He can step out, too, and play but he’s more of an inside guy right now. But he wants to expand his game. That’s part of the reason he wants to come to our place and we work with the guys year round, so it’s a little different.
“I think we can make him a better player and he’s going to make us a better team obviously.”
Stokes recently announced that his list now consists of Kentucky, Florida, UConn, Memphis, Tennessee and Arkansas.
“I’m wide open,” he said.
Stokes said he was a Tigers fan when Calipari coached Memphis.
“I always admire Calipari,” he said.
Stokes also called Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin a “real, real cool guy…who understands me.”
UConn is the only Big East school on the list, but Stokes is giving them a hard look.
“They’re the national champs, I want to go to a winning team,” he said. “Anytime the national championship team calls you, you gotta take it serious.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.