Memphis prep basketball star Jarnell Stokes expected to have a great time on his official visit to Arkansas this past weekend, but it went beyond that for the 5-star power forward.
"I loved it so much, just a great, great visit that I don't think could have been any better," Stokes said Tuesday night. "It was just as I expected – a family atmosphere that the coaches create and the players are a bunch of great guys. It's a tremendous college town and the fans are just incredible."
Stokes (6-9, 245) got a true taste of that on Saturday night when he was one of over 70,000 fans that attended the Razorback football team's season-opening 51-7 win over Missouri State.
"The SEC is so big-time," said Stokes, who is now enrolled at Southwind High. "The fan support for the Razorbacks just blew me away. It's not just a city that supports them. It's the all state. They love the players and support them. It was just a great college atmosphere in a great college town. I can't say enough about it."
In addition to a campus tour and the football game, Stokes – who averaged 17.2 points and 9.2 rebounds last season for Memphis Central - got to go to the famed Catfish Hole restaurant and see a little of the nightlife in Fayetteville.
"The Catfish Hole was great, just great," Stokes said. "I also just really liked hanging out and going out with the Arkansas players. They are great guys. They know how to have a lot of fun, but not the kind that will get you in trouble. The Arkansas players are a bunch of cool guys with great character."
Arkansas was the first visit for Stokes, who will also take official visits to Florida (Sept. 30-Oct. 2), Memphis, UConn and Tennessee with UCLA trying to sneak in. Stokes said he has not yet said up the dates for his official visits to the other schools yet.
"I'll do that after I get my home visits out of the way," said Stokes, who is regarded as the third-best power forward and the 17th-best player overall in the 2012 class by Scout.com.
All of those schools are set to be in Memphis to see Stokes when the Sept. 9-Oct. 5 home visit period starts this Friday with Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson leading the charge.
Anderson was part of a staff that led Arkansas to a national championship in 1994 and fans have expectations of another glory run under the new coach.
"Arkansas is coming over here this weekend and I am already looking forward to seeing the coaches again," Stokes said. "Coach Anderson and (Razorback assistant) Coach T.J. Cleveland are just great guys. I have a great relationship with those guys and they have been recruiting me forever."
Stokes had a chance to play pick-up games with the current Razorbacks and came away impressed with their conditioning.
"The speed and the up-tempo – it is much different from high school," Stokes said. "I have a lot of adjusting to do. I heard they get up at six in the morning. That's extreme to me. I already get up early and workout, but getting up and working out up tempo like I did today is just crazy. I am looking forward to college and making some huge adjustments."
While Arkansas is not blessed with a abundance of height on its 2010-11 roster, Stokes was impressed with the versatility he sees of the current Razorback bigs.
"Their big men are not just guys that have to stay on the block," Stokes said. "They are very mobile and can knock down shots. It seems like more freedom than most programs. The speed is a very big adjustment from high school."
Stokes played at Memphis Central the last few seasons, but is now attending Southwind in his home district in hopes of being able to practice on Oct. 31 and start the season on Nov. 21.
Southwind filed for a hardship transfer waiver from the Tennnessee State School Athletic Association on Stokes. That ruling has been handed down, but not made public yet by either the school or the TSSAA.
If the request was turned down, Stokes and Southwind could still appeal to the TSSAA Board of Control.
"I was told not to talk about that so I hope you understand I just doing what they tell me," Stokes said. "I am just not going to speak on that for now."
Stokes is one of the prospects who have fun with twitter, getting a ton of messages from fans of the schools and retweeting them several times a day.
"As far as twitter, I get so many I can't count all of them," Stokes said. "I'm always retweeting so that will urge the next guy to write something so I can retweet that, too. It is just continuous all day. I enjoy that stuff. I think a lot more guys should do it. Some of them have the mindset that they are too good to do it and they are some type of god, but I feel I can relate to all the college fans and have fun with it."
Stokes has talked about possibly not signing in the November early period and waiting until the spring to ink a letter-of-intent with the school of his choice.
"I just don't know how that is going to work out," Stokes said. "If I take these visits and am sure of the place I want to go, then I will just go ahead and sign. The other schools are going to have to really go to impress me more than Arkansas. It was just a phenomenal visit."
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