April 11, 2014
Tennessee basketball player Jarnell Stokes announced Friday that he will forego his senior season and enter the 2014 NBA Draft. A transcript of his comments follows:
(Opening statement) "After a lot of prayer and deliberation, I have made the decision to forego my senior season and enter the NBA Draft. I want to thank Tennessee for making these last three years so special. I feel like I definitely grew up and became a man here. I will always be a Vol For Life."
(On what the last couple days were like making this decision) "I always felt like I was ready, and I always felt like I was better than some people said I was. I feel like I can do things that people said I couldn't. That definitely gave me motivation. I walked in (head coach Cuonzo Martin's) office early Tuesday morning to just inform him of my decision. I talked to him after the (Michigan) game, and I was kind of leaning toward both. I said I kind of want to enter the draft, and he said, `No, you have to be sure to enter this business.' So I walked in Tuesday more confident than ever of my decision."
(On feedback he's received from NBA personnel on where he might be selected in the draft)
"Some people said they want to see me up close and in person. They want to see me play my true position. I have had to do certain things for coach Martin and make sacrifices for the team as far as playing not my true position and playing the center spot. I am just looking forward to playing my true position. I have a lot of things to work on. As far as projections, some teams are giving me a shot at the first round, but it all depends on where I work out, how I work out and I feel like I control my own destiny."
(On his decision last spring to stay at Tennessee for his junior season) "It was definitely an important decision. I am so happy I stayed last year with the run we made. The way I was able to soak in some of the information that scouts and certain people were giving me that I need to work on. I basically went in the gym and worked on my conditioning. I was able to showcase some skills that I wasn't able to show in the past. I was hitting jump shots and running the floor much better. I was in better shape last year and was able to even rebound at a higher rate than I did the year before with an animal like Jeronne (Maymon) on my team. I'm definitely glad I stayed."
(On coach Martin's reaction) "He wished me the best of luck. I feel like coach Martin is very genuine and wants the best for me. Last year he was telling me, `No, you shouldn't go. You have to make your own decision, but no, you shouldn't.' This year he more like, `Maybe it is your time. If you want to stay I am happy to have you.' That is how genuine coach Martin has been to us."
(On the effect this decision will have on the Tennessee team) "I feel like as an individual player, and my skill set and some things I could bring to a NBA team, I am ready. I really feel like I was ready and I just wanted to be sure. I was able to walk into coach Martin's office Tuesday morning and let him know. I just worked out with the team yesterday, and I was so surprised at how focused and how hard they were working. I feel like they will be ready for next year. They are in good hands. They will be much better than people give them credit for."
(On if his decision was difficult) "I felt like it wasn't a tough decision for me. I enjoyed being here so much. But it's really hard to turn down something you've chased all your life. It's hard to turn that down, definitely (after) we made the (NCAA) tournament run. I feel like I can produce on a team in the NBA. I really do. I've heard other important people say the same thing. That really factored into my decision. My sophomore year, like I said, I'm so glad I came back because I've been able to grow as a man here, too."
(On talking to former Vol Tobias Harris and other NBA players) "Yes. I talked to Tobias (Harris) last week, and he basically told me that I should come out. That's what he called for. I always look forward to hearing Tobias' advice. Tobias has had a great career in the NBA. He said sometimes he felt like he wished he would've been a second-rounder because the way contracts are negotiated. I'm happy for Tobias, and he is definitely a great mentor to have."
(On the Tennessee fanbase) "I've loved the fans here. I can remember when I first came here and I played against Kentucky. The Stokes shirt that went out sold out all over the state. I had just turned 18 when that happened. I really enjoyed my freshman year here, and that's when Vol fans really embraced me and sort of turned me into a local superstar. I can't go anywhere without someone asking for pictures or autographs. I really enjoyed that, and it's hard to turn down, but I'm happy with my decision."
(On if it was tougher to make this decision knowing head coach Cuonzo Martin was coming back) "It definitely was tougher. Coach Martin is such a great coach, a genuine coach. He is so easy to talk to - someone I will be able to talk to for the rest of my life. I can call him and say, 'This doesn't sound right, what should I do? What is your opinion on certain things?' A lot of guys can't do that with their college coach, so I feel like he has my best interest (in mind)."
(On if there is a push now to try to get drafted in the first round) "I will say that the next month or two are probably the most important months of my life, as far as being able to dominate workouts and working on my body. I plan on walking into the combine a totally different person, having my body trimmed, and even losing more weight than I did the previous year. And I definitely plan on working on my skills. Some of it has to factor in to the fact that I had to do certain things for the team this year as far as playing the center position and banging inside. I felt like the team needed an inside presence, so that's what I did, and that definitely led us to making a Sweet Sixteen run."
(On what agency his is going to sign with and where his training will be based) "I have a couple of agents in mind, but I have not signed yet. I plan to do that in the next couple of days. I'll probably go to a draft camp like IMG."
(On what this decision means for his family) "I get to pave the way for people like my little brother and other situations that my family has. My little brother, little sister, mom, and dad... my siblings look up to me. My parents are proud of me, and everyone has had my back in this decision. Like I said, I get to pave the way. It's not just about me. When I'm working out and when I'm in the gym by myself, losing weight and eating right, every single decision I make, I think about my little brother when I do it."
(On if he's happy with where he is weight-wise) "Weight-wise, I am where I want to be, but I would like to trim my body up, meaning I would like to add even more weight. If there is any fat, I would like to lose it. I just want to look in the mirror and have a trimmed body. I feel like it is trimmed, but I feel like there is another level I can take it."