LITTLE ROCK - He was the biggest man in a small gym and clearly on this night he was the "The Real Deal in the Rock."
Memphis YOMCA center Jarnell Stokes poured – a 2012 Arkansas recruiting target – poured in a game-high 36 points to lead his team over the Tennessee Ice 87-54 Friday night in the opening round of the aforementioned event.
Stokes (6-9, 245) - a Memphis Central prep standout - scored in a variety of ways at the Southwest Community Center as his team got off to a great start in pool play at the Real Deal.
"I think he is probably the best big guy in the country as far as far as the combination of size, speed and strength," Taylor said. "He went out there and showed that in tonight's game."
Stokes was a target of Mike Anderson's while at Missouri and that certainly has continued with the head coach's move to Arkansas.
"He was recruiting me hard at Missouri and I really like him as a coach," Stokes said. "One thing I really like about him is that he teaches family, how the organization is a like brothers and a family. I really like Coach T.J. (Cleveland), too. T.J. and I talk all the time. Plus Coach Anderson wins games while doing that and that's important, too."
Taylor said he knows that Stokes is just one of the many players that Anderson will be coming after in Memphis.
"I love Coach Anderson," Taylor said. "He's back home. Great coach, great Christian guy, he gets the best out of his players. I know he is going to be in Memphis recruiting hard just like back in the day."
Taylor can't say enough good things about his big man's work ethic.
"This kid's day starts at 4:45 a.m. every morning when he gets up and runs," Taylor said. "He is dedicated to getting himself in shape. He runs, goes to school, actually works out with the track team and then we get in the gym three times a week. He is not satisfied with where he is."
Stokes took a visit to Missouri for a camp last summer and then treked to Columbia for the opening weekend of basketball practice.
"I have never been to Arkansas, but I know all about the Memphis players who played there," Stokes said. "I am going to get up there to visit this summer for sure."
There's not much that Stokes doesn't do well on the floor, but he is working to improve all areas of his game.
"I like my size and my weight, but I have got to become more versatile," Stokes said. "I want to be get quicker and be able to guard different positions. I want to be able to be great at everything.
"That would help me fit into Coach Anderson's office because they like that ‘40 minutes of Hell,'" Stokes said. "You got to be in shape to run in that. If I was to go there, I would have to be in great shape. I am working on that now."
The talent pool in Memphis is back up to a normal level lately.
"It was down, but now Memphis is back on the map," Telep said. "It started with Joe Jackson and all those guys. The Memphis players really got the dog in them."
Stokes may have been headed for Tennessee, but the firing of Volunteers nixed that and let everybody else back in the race.
"I was high on Tennessee before the coach got fired," Stokes said. "Now I am just wide open. I really like Arkansas, but also like Memphis, Duke, UConn and Ole Miss."
This weekend's Real Deal In the Rock is the YOMCA's one step out of play from the Nike Elite Basketball Youth League.
Stokes and his team got its EBYL schedule started last week with a Boo Williams-hosted tournament in Virginia.
"We went 4-1," Stokes said. "We just had that one bad game. We had a drop off, but we picked it back up and finished strong."
ESPN analyst Dave Telep got a chance to see Stokes play last weekend.
"Obviously he has gotten better since last year," Telep said. "Last week at the EBYL, he was a dominant post player. I think he just owns his area. He can make a shot up to 15 feet every now, but you know exactly what you are getting at the rim. He's finishing better."
Stokes is one of the members of a solid 2012 big man class.
"This class has a lot of good big guys and he's one of them," Telep said. "The good thing is those guys know that none of them can take a night off."
The Real Deal
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