Martin lands key recruit

Cuonzo Martin landed what he hopes will be a building block to great things in the form of five-star prospect Jarnell Stokes.

The distance from Knoxville to Memphis is 391 miles, and for any head basketball coach at the University of Tennessee those are the most important 391 miles in the country. Cuonzo Martin has known that since he took over at Tennessee, and with some hard work and good fortune, a five-star recruit who currently makes Memphis home will be changing area codes to Knoxville.

While there will always be a player or two to come from Knoxville or Nashville, when talking about the talent in the state of Tennessee, it is all about the city of Memphis. Memphis seemingly produces as many high-level prospects in one year as the rest of the state does in a decade or two.

Because of that winning at Tennessee often times can come down to getting some of Memphis' best players to make that 391 mile trek to the East, and that is exactly what Martin secured as Jarnell Stokes issued his commitment to the school.

At 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds, Stokes is the type of space eater on the interior that the Volunteers need. He can score with his back to the basket, really rebounds well, and is showing more and more skill facing the rim.

On top of it all, Stokes isn't the type of kid who will only spend a year or two in college. He should have a long and very productive college in the collegiate ranks.

That alone makes this a huge commitment for Martin. The Volunteers are currently 4-6 with losses to Austin Peay, Oakland University, and College of Charleston. Coming off of an era where Bruce Pearl had things rolling in Knoxville, that isn't what Volunteer fans are accustomed to.

Now however things could be looking up. The Volunteers top three players will all return next year, and now with Stokes in the fold, they will have a very solid core of four guys who can help Tennessee's rebuilding process.

To this point Martin hasn't been able to lure in many top recruits to Knoxville. His 2011 class was mostly made of players to fill out a roster, and in 2012 Tennessee wasn't able to land a top 100, or even a three-star prospect, but now they have Stokes.

Stokes, who plans to enroll early, could not only contribute this year and help the Volunteers get wins on the floor, but he could help convince other kids from the city of Memphis to stay in state, yet at the same time leave the city.

In the 2013 class, Tennessee has made city of Memphis power forward Austin Nichols a major focus. While the two aren't necessarily close friends who talk all the time, there could be a sense of comfort not only with the direction of the program in Knoxville, but in terms of being a Memphis kid at Tennessee that there wasn't before.

While it is too early to jump to conclusions that Tennessee has now made serious in-roads in the city of Memphis, it is safe to say that Martin and his staff are off to a heck of a start with Stokes. He is a five-star prospect, someone that Memphis and Arkansas really wanted, and now he will be wearing orange and trying to help Martin keep the program at the lofty level it has been at over the past few seasons.

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