Vols' Stokes hopes to build on big performance

Vols' Stokes hopes to build on big performance

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) This hasn't been the type of season that Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes expected.

Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin called Stokes an ``elite'' player before the season, but the 6-foot-8 sophomore forward has struggled to live up to that description. Stokes has encountered double-teams in the absence of teammate Jeronne Maymon, a former second-team all-Southeastern Conference forward redshirting this season with an injured left knee. He has been unable to avoid foul trouble.

``I definitely have been frustrated this season,'' Stokes said. ``This has been one of the most frustrating seasons, the way we've lost, getting two fouls early in a game and having to sit out an entire half. It's just frustrating. Double-teams and sometimes triple-teams, I haven't quite gotten used to it. I just didn't anticipate that coming into the season. I expected to get a double-double every game.''

Perhaps Stokes' breakthrough performance came Saturday.

Stokes scored 15 points, pulled down a career-high 18 rebounds and made a critical defensive stand in the closing seconds of a 54-53 victory over Alabama. That performance improved his season averages to 11.1 points and 8.1 rebounds, slightly above his 2011-12 totals of 9.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.

He had four fewer rebounds than Alabama's entire roster Saturday and didn't seem frustrated at all after carrying the Vols to victory. Stokes will try to build on that momentum Tuesday when Tennessee (10-8, 2-4 SEC) hosts Vanderbilt (8-10, 2-4).

Stokes' big game Saturday certainly caught the attention of Vanderbilt, which has the SEC's worst rebound margin. Vanderbilt guard Dai-Jon Parker said Stokes' rebounding totals against Alabama seemed like ``Karl Malone numbers.''

``If he's not the strongest guy in the league, he's certainly one of them and one of the strongest guys in the country,'' Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. ``And he knows how to use it. He knows how to position himself and use his body, and he's smart with it. Not only is he big and strong and athletic, he's intelligent in how he uses his strength. Anyway, it's a challenge to box him out for anyone, not just for us. He's a challenge for everybody.''

Stokes attributed his output in part to a shift in attitude.

He said basketball hadn't been as much fun for him as usual this season. That changed against Alabama.

``I think one of the hardest things for a college athlete is probably just to have fun while they're playing,'' Stokes said. ``Don't take everything as a business. It's not always (about) trying to please (the) coach. Just go out there and have fun. I think that game, I just had fun, and I think that was the result. Everything went my way.''

Not much had gone Stokes' way before Saturday.

Stokes hardly ever encountered double-teams his freshman year, but teams have routinely guarded him that way this season without Maymon around. Stokes has fouled out of four games. After Stokes fouled out of a 62-56 loss at Mississippi on Thursday, Martin contacted the SEC about the way Stokes was being officiated.

Martin was quick to point out plenty of other reasons Tennessee lost that game. Mississippi's Marshall Henderson scored 28 points. The Vols committed 21 turnovers and missed free throws down the stretch. But he also wanted to make sure officials weren't using Stokes' enormous size against him.

``With such a physical presence, just because he gets hit on the leg and you can't move him, it's still a foul,'' Martin said. ``He's a physical guy. Whether he's 5-5 or 6-10, a foul's a foul.''

Even when fouls are called against Tennessee opponents, Stokes hasn't always made them pay. Stokes is making just 52.6 percent of his free throws, which added to his frustrations.

Stokes put all that turmoil behind him Saturday. He was aggressive on the boards and assertive with the ball in his hands. He only had two fouls called against him.

If he can build on that performance, Stokes could lead Tennessee on a second-half surge. Tennessee has gone 7-0 in Stokes' career when he makes at least six baskets. Although junior guard Jordan McRae is Tennessee's leading scorer, he considers Stokes the focal point of the offense.

``I know what the numbers say, but you can look at Jarnell and if you didn't know anything about this team, you could look at our team and say Jarnell was probably one of the best players on the team,'' McRae said. ``The fact that he demands a double-team and so much attention is drawn to him, it helps everybody else.

``You can only imagine what he would do if he wasn't being doubled every night.''


AP Sports Writer Teresa Walker of Nashville, Tenn., contributed to this report.

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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

It may be the 18th of March but today could be like Christmas for five Redskins players.

The Redskins decided to use today, four days after the start of the league year, for some contract triggers. In this case, the triggers are all 2018 salary guarantees (some teams will pay out roster bonuses on trigger dates, but the Redskins rarely use that type of structure).

Here are the players whose have guarantees that kick in today 4 p.m. All data is via Over the Cap.


CB Josh Norman, base salary of $13.5 million becomes fully guaranteed—This was a window for the Redskins to move on from Norman if they were not happy with his performance after two seasons. He is 31 and he had no interceptions last season, leaving some to wonder if the Redskins might think about releasing him. But it never was a consideration.

TE Jordan Reed, $8 million of his $8.25 million salary becomes fully guaranteed—No, I’m not sure why they are leaving that $250,000 out there non-guaranteed. Fans thought that the Redskins might move on from Reed due to his injury issues. But, as with Norman, it never was a consideration.

S D.J. Swearinger, $3 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—This is a mere technicality, Swearinger wasn’t going anywhere after helping to solidify the safety position.


RB Chris Thompson, $1.996 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—His rehab is going well and after last year Thompson’s two-year, $7 million contract extension signed last September looks like a good deal for the team.

DE Terrell McClain, $3.25 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—If the Redskins sign a top free agent D-lineman or draft on early in the draft they could be in a numbers crunch. That new acquisition would be guaranteed a roster spot along with Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis, Stacy McGee, and Anthony Lanier. That makes five and the Redskins kept six last year. Ziggy Hood is a favorite of the coaching staff but he has no guaranteed money left on his contract. That could tip the sixth spot in favor of McClain if he is on the roster at the close of business today. If they release McClain after today, they would take a cap charge of over $2 million. It seems unlikely that anything will happen but it’s something to keep an eye on.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.


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It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

The Wizards crossed off an important goal on Saturday night by beating the Indiana Pacers and therefore securing the season series. If the teams tie with the same regular season record, the Wizards will get the higher playoff seed. As of today, that would mean home court advantage in the first round.

Though the Wizards have beaten the Pacers in two of their three matchups this season, we only know so much about how they would match up in the playoffs. The first game between them didn't feature Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo and John Wall didn't play in any of the three games. The Pacers were without both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis on Saturday night.

Given the Pacers underwent so much change over the summer, there is no real data to go off of from before this season. They are a completely different team with Oladipo leading the way and Paul George now in Oklahoma City.


There are reasons to believe, however, that the Wizards would fare well against the Pacers over the course of a seven-game series. For one, they figured out how to slow Oladipo and his teammate Bojan Bogdanovic on Saturday night. Both had killed the Wizards in previous matchups.

Oladipo was held to 18 points, over five points below his season average of 23.5. He had four turnovers, shot 7-for-16 (43.7%) and finished a -18 in a game the Pacers lost by seven.

The Wizards had some success with Tomas Satoransky guarding Oladipo. Satoransky is 6-foot-7 with long arms. He was able to recover on several occasions to alter Oladipo's shots.

Satoransky and Bradley Beal also did a good job keeping pace with Oladipo on the fastbreak. The Pacers had only four fastbreak points in the game. Oladipo is especially dangerous in the open court.

“We just made sure that we were aggressive with him and made sure he saw a lot of bodies in the paint," Beal said. "The last game, he got a lot of easy ones in transition. We just made sure that we got back on the shot, loaded to the ball and forced the other guys to attack.”

For Bogdanovic, it was about limiting open shots from the perimeter. Bogdanovic had 11 points, three below his season average and had four turnovers. Beal and Otto Porter stripped Bogdanovic for steals and Marcin Gortat took a charge on one play in the third quarter.


But it was all about taking away the outside shot. Bogdanovic only hit one shot in the first half and it was a three. The only reason he got it off is because Kelly Oubre, Jr. lost his balance backing up. That gave Bogdanovic the window he needed. Otherwise, Oubre helped frustrate the former Wizards small forward. So did Gortat and Ian Mahinmi, who did a good job covering their teammates off screens.

The Pacers are an average offensive team, ranking 16th in points per game and 14th in offensive rating. They are better defensively, ranking ninth-best in opponents points per game and 12th in defensive efficiency.

If the Wizards can limit Oladipo and Bogdanovic, the Pacers' two leading scorers, they should have a good shot at beating the Pacers in the playoffs. Beyond them, the Pacers are thin in the scoring department. Turner only averages 13.6 points and no one else beyond him can consistently make an opposing defense pay for mistakes. Conversely, several Wizards players have given the Pacers major trouble through three games this season.

Gortat, who had 18 points and eight rebounds on Saturday, has averaged 13 points and eight rebounds on 57.7 percent shooting against Indiana. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who had 16 points in 18 minutes, has averaged 15.5 points and is shooting 50 percent from the field.


In addition to those guys, Markieff Morris, Porter, Mike Scott, Mahinmi and Satoransky are all shooting over 50 percent against the Pacers. Satoransky is shooting 71.4 percent through three games.

The Wizards have the pieces to counter what the Pacers do best. Indiana is seventh in three-point percentage, but the Wizards are the best team in basketball in opponents three-point percentage. The Pacers are built around an All-Star guard, but the Wizards have two All-Star guards. The Pacers have a collection of talented wing players, but so do the Wizards.

"Hypothetically, I do like Indiana," Beal said. "I like how we match up with Indiana and I feel like there is a lot of stuff that we can take advantage of. In a lot of categories, I think we can win them."

Add it all up and the Wizards have every reason to feel confident if they see the Pacers in the posteason. Keep that in mind because they very well could meet up in the spring.

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