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“I was planning on actually leaving,” Stokes, a graduate of Southwind High, said Saturday.
That slowly changed over the two months since the season ended. Reality crystallized. A report from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee told Stokes he was, at best, a second-round pick. He deliberated, discussing options with those closest to him, including Volunteers coach Cuonzo Martin.
Decision day came Saturday. Stokes met with Knoxville media in the UT basketball office lobby inside Thompson-Boling Arena.
“I think,” Stokes said, hunching his king-sized shoulders, “that the best decision is to stay.”
Just like that, the last piece of Tennessee’s 2013-14 men’s basketball puzzle fell into place.
Begrudgingly or not, Stokes will return to the Vols for his junior season.
“Guys were saying I can’t shoot. Well I know I can shoot. Guys were saying he’s short. Well, I have a 7-2 wingspan,” Stokes said. “I just have to work on the other things. I was confident enough to go into (NBA team) workouts and show that, but at the end of the day, when you have to sign those papers and send it in, you don’t want to risk your whole career on a couple of workouts. That’s what my decision was based on.”