Isaiah Stokes sat and listened intently to Roy Williams, UNC assistant Steve Robinson and Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy head coach Vince Walden’s conversation during a meeting at the school on Tuesday.
They talked about North Carolina, Stokes’s older brother Jarnell (who played at Tennessee), the backboard Stokes shattered at an Adidas tournament in July and his upcoming senior season.
But something Williams said made Stokes lean in and listen just a bit closer.
“One point that he brought up to me is that every year he’s coached at UNC, a big man was the leading or second-leading scorer,” Stokes explained. “That one caught my attention. He said that is how it’s been from Tyler Hansbrough to Brice Johnson and many other players. He said that showed that his style of play is going inside first.”
And that’s just what a 6-foot-7, 270-pound former footballer like Stokes wants to hear. After about an hour and a half on the court, Stokes, Williams, Robinson and Walden talked for around 30 minutes.
“The visit went great,” said Stokes. “He (Williams) was trying to elaborate on how I could fit in his system and style of play. He was trying to see what kind of kid I am, asking me what I like about North Carolina and what my interest is in North Carolina.”
Stokes said his answer was immediate.
“Yes, I am very interested in North Carolina,” he said to Williams. “I told him that he’s one coach that puts people in the pros. That can’t go under the radar. That’s my ultimate objective and from the past players I’ve talked to he’s a trustworthy coach and that’s one thing I want to have with a coach, a solid trust foundation.”
While an official date hasn’t yet been set, Stokes is expected to use one of his five officials on North Carolina. His first official visit begins on Friday at Tennessee. He’ll be at Iowa State on Sept 23, Florida on Oct. 7 and TCU on Oct. 21.
UNC first started recruiting Stokes over the summer, where he played on Team Penny with 2017 UNC target P.J. Washington. The Tar Heels offered him a scholarship at the beginning of August.
“The offer really came out of nowhere,” said Stokes. “They were recruiting P.J. (Washington) and I thought that’s the only reason they were looking at all of our EYBL games and watching us at the Peach Jam. Then I got a call one day from Coach Robinson. Then I talked to Coach Williams and he offered me, so that was big.”
A year ago, Hall of Fame coaches were still visiting Stokes and asking him to play at their school – it was just for football. Not until this year did Stokes decide to focus solely on basketball.
“It’s been a tough transition from playing one sport to another,” he said. “It says a lot about me that I have good work ethic, because transitioning… it’s not easy to do. I think football put that dog and toughness and physical mentality inside of me. I’m thankful I played football, it made me already ready for the physicality in college.”
When Stokes is ready to make a college decision, his brother will be a major factor.
“He’s a big part of it,” said Stokes. “He’s been through it all. That’s basically who I go to if I have any questions or concerns. He’s definitely one person I’ll go to for recommendations on who I should play for at the next level.”