Posted on: January 1, 2012 9:00 pm

Jarnell Stokes won't play in Memphis this week

By Jeff Goodman

Jarnell Stokes won't make his debut in his hometown of Memphis this week. In fact, the talented big man may not see his first college action for a couple weeks. 

Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin told CBSsports.com that even if Stokes, a Memphis native who is enrolling in college early, gets through the NCAA clearinghouse, he won't play against the Tigers on Wednesday night in Memphis. 

"We need to get him acclimated, adjusted and comfortable," Martin told CBSSports.com. "There's no reason to rush him." 

Martin said it's unlikely Stokes would play until Jan. 12 at the earliest.

Martin doesn't want to throw his talented Memphis native -- who committed last week and will enroll in college early -- to the wolves. 

Stokes, who graduated from high school in 3 1/2 years, is still waiting to be officially admitted to school and cleared by the NCAA. But the schedule is daunting for the big man with hometown Memphis this week, followed by Florida on Jan. 7, at Mississippi State on Jan. 12 and Kentucky on Jan. 14. 

If that's the case, he might want to wait to play him until Jan. 18 in Athens against Georgia. 

Posted on: December 22, 2011 7:51 pm
Edited on: December 22, 2011 7:52 pm

Stokes picks Tennessee

By Gary Parrish

MEMPHIS -- Jarnell Stokes publicly committed to Tennessee on Thursday.

He plans to enroll in Knoxville in January and play this season.

Stokes' announcement ended a long and intense recruitment that featured other programs such as Kentucky, Connecticut, Florida, Arkansas and Memphis vying for his services. The 6-foot-8 forward spent months interacting with followers on Twitter and greatly increased his profile with fans, and the recruitment took a turn in recent weeks when the TSSAA ruled the Memphis native ineligible to play high school basketball this season because of a transfer from Central High to Southwind High. Once that happened, Stokes decided to graduate early and enroll in college mid-semester. Sources told CBSSports.com he settled on Tennessee in recent days and stuck to that choice despite late pushes from various coaching staffs.

This is big for first-year UT coach Cuonzo Martin.

CBSSports.com ranks Stokes as the 16th-best prospect in the Class of 2012. He represents the first elite-level recruit to leave the city of Memphis for Tennessee since Tony Harris signed with the Vols before the 1997-98 season. Stokes is also the first primary target within the city that Memphis coach Josh Pastner has missed on since he replaced John Calipari in April 2009, though it should be noted that Pastner signed Shaq Goodwin out of Georgia last month.

CBSSports.com ranks Goodwin as the 21st-best prospect in the Class of 2012.

He plays the same position as Stokes.

Tennessee is 4-6 heading into Friday's game against East Tennessee State.

The Vols play at Memphis on Jan. 4.
Posted on: December 20, 2011 12:58 pm
Edited on: December 21, 2011 12:04 am

Stokes announcing college choice Thursday

By Gary Parrish

Jarnell Stokes, a high school prospect from Memphis, said on Tuesday that he will announce his college decision Thursday night, which is noteworthy because Stokes plans to enroll in college early and maybe play this season.

Stokes' list of possible destinations includes Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Memphis and Tennessee, but multiple sources have told CBSSports.com that it's really down to just Florida, Memphis and Tennessee. The 6-foot-8 forward Tweeted Tuesday that he remains undecided.

"I'm saying my prayers 24/7," he Tweeted, "and waking up Thursday with an answer!"

CBSSports.com ranks Stokes at the 16th-best prospect in the Class of 2012, but he's not playing high school basketball this season because the TSSAA ruled him ineligible after he transferred from Central High to Southwind High. Consequently, Stokes started weeks ago exploring the possibility of graduating high school early and enrolling in college early. He told CBSSports.com on Tuesday that that's exactly what he'll do, and when asked whether he wants to redshirt this season or play immediately Stokes said, "Of course I want to play."

That could be a problem for the hometown Tigers.

Memphis does not have a scholarship available for this season. And though Stokes could get enough financial aid and academic scholarship money to basically go to Memphis for free, he would almost certainly not be allowed to play at Memphis this season because he would be considered a "recruited walk-on" thanks to an official visit he took to Memphis earlier this year, and the NCAA does not allow "recruited walk-ons" to play in their first year on campus.

Meantime, Florida and Tennessee both have scholarships available. Multiple sources told CBSSports.com that Gators coach Billy Donovan and Vols coach Cuonzo Martin have each made it clear to Stokes that he can play for them this season, and that is, again, something Memphis coach Josh Pastner simply cannot offer because of an obscure NCAA rule.
Posted on: December 16, 2011 11:25 am

Podcast: Pay the players? Not anymore

By Matt Norlander

In case you missed it, college players will no longer be afforded a $2,000 cost-of-attendance stipend bump. After the NCAA voted it into legislation, more than 125 college stood up and voted against it this week, mandating the legislation to be tabled indefinitely. That's kind of a big story, but it's been buried underneath Penn State, Tebow, Syracuse, Xavier/Cincy, etc.

Veteran USA Today columnist Christine Brennan wrote why the proposal was treacherous from the get-go (Psst! Follow Christine on Twitter). I've long read her work, and it was an honor to get her to come on and discuss the issue; to me she's the definition of talented, old-school columnist voice, the kind of writer that's unfortunately not as prominent in 2011 like they were 15 years ago. The paying-players topic takes up the first 60 percent of this podcast: why the stipend ever materialized, all the systemic issues, paying players, her opinion on if it should happen, how women's sports stands in the way, etc. Good information from Christine, and it doesn't stop there.  

On our list:
  • From the beginning: Introducing Christine and explaining why college players are no longer receiving the cost-of-attendance stipend that was voted into legislation in October.
  • 7:35: The National College Players Association is obviously against this.
  • 9:35: Why did this all happen so fast? It was brought up at a convention in August, voted into reality in October, and by December, it's now off the table.
  • 15:00: With hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue, how is it really possible that just over 20 universities are truly turning a profit?
  • 22:44: Why this is getting closer and closer to the watershed and breaking point of the NCAA and its member institutions. Just on big ol' section of the iceberg ready to get its floe on.
  • 23:54: Why college sports, even with all the ugliness, doesn't really suffer despite the scandals at Penn State and Syracuse.
  • 28:48: Some Pat Summitt discussion. Had to, wanted to chat his with Christine, who's one of the prominent national voices on women's athletics. So we wrap up with a story on Pat and some niceties to close things out.

You can listen to the CBSSports.com College Basketball Podcast every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The podcasts are posted here and simultaneously through iTunes (link below). Each Wednesday CBSSports.com national writers Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish hop on to banter and bicker. Mondays and Fridays are reserved for the most prominent voices in and around the game. Here's the iTunes subcription link. We also have an RSS feed for you to track. I don't believe they are making Zunes anymore, but nonetheless, I've been instructed to link you on how to listen via that device, too.

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Posted on: December 5, 2011 11:56 am

Pat Summitt, Coach K Sportswoman/man of the Year

By Matt Norlander

In a year when the college coaching profession has taken arguably its greatest hit, Sports Illustrated has unprecedentedly picked two for its Sportsman/Sportswoman of the Year.

And since they're both involved in the sport we deal with here, the subject is naturally getting its own post. The winningest coaches in each of their sports, Pat Summitt and Mike Krzyzewski, earn the distinction that's kept a pretty high mark of class and esteem over the years.

The decision makes sense and is timely, considering K just became the all-time wins leader in men's college basketball. Summitt continues to press on with her recording, currently tallied at 1,075. You can easily make the argument K never catches Summitt, who is now and likely forever the face of women's college basketball.

(As an aside, I would've had no issue with Summitt getting the sole nod, as she's done enough in her career to warrant getting the standalone treatment. But the synergistic choice makes a lot of sense, too. )

Summitt has been in the news this year, sadly, because she was diagnosed with early onset dementia. She has pressed on and continued to coach. And it speaks to who Summitt is, what she's accomplished and the nearly universal respect she's earned that this choice doesn't feel like a pity pick -- Summitt could've received this honor a decade ago and it still would've been appropriate and deserved.

As for Krzyzewski, it does feel like a longtime coming. He's become the most recognizable coach in college basketball since Bobby Knight left the game -- and that distinction was true a good decade before Knight checked out. There are plenty of people that will roll their eyes at K getting this (Duke hate: a special kind of hate), but his win total, four national titles (which, by the way, is just half of what Summitt has achieved) and perpetual domination at Duke leads to a logical choice.

Not to mention, the sport was due for another Sportsman/Sportswoman. This is only the third college hoops-related SI Sportsman of the Year. The two previous: Dean Smith in '97 and John Wooden (with Billie Jean King) in '72. Per SI, the only other coaches to earn the distinction: Joe Paterno (1986); manager Terry Francona (2004, along with the Red Sox); Herb Brooks (1980, along with the U.S. Men's hockey team) and Tony DiCicco (1999, along with U.S. Women's soccer coach).

If you'd like to check the history of past Sportsmen and Sportswomen of the Year, you can do so here.

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Posted on: December 1, 2011 12:00 pm

Your SEC/Big East Challenge guide

By Matt Norlander

What do you want in a preview? I've been self-assigned (is that even possible?) to give you the rundown on all of the SEC and Big East games coming up over the next 72 hours, and I wasn't quite sure where to go with this. After all, these are early-December games, half of them are afterthoughts, and preview material is usually come-and-go outside of preseason and NCAA tournament talk.

So I looked at the games and decided I'll just give you whatever random thought comes off the top of my head. A conversational tone works best here, since there are no real true tilts of consequence involved outside of the fantastic ones going on Friday night Louisville and Syracuse. (I'll be at the latter.) If there's a stat sited, I do not have it memorized. Those I looked up. I'm not huge on predictions, so you won't find those here.

All this said, I do expect these 12 games to be better than what the ACC and Big Ten gave us Tuesday and Wednesday night, by the way. If you have any other curiosities that go beyond this post, check our SEC/Big East Challenge page, which has the history of this event and stats that go along with it.


Providence at South Carolina (7 ET): Oh this is just bad. Providence is a few years away from true relevancy, and Darrin Horn is already coaching for his job at South Carolina. NEXT.

St. John's at Kentucky (7:30 ET): Wildcats get the Johnnies tonight, less than 48 hours before Carolina comes in. I'd say St. John's would have a chance, except they're playing Kentucky. Kind of a problem. SJU doesn't have one senior on its roster and head coach Steve Lavin will not be making the trip. Kentucky will be looking ahead to UNC, but the 'Cats should win by a minimum of 23.4 points.

Ole Miss at DePaul (9 ET): Have a sick interest in this game if for no other reason than I want to know how many people show up to watch it. Have to say, the fact these teams are a combined 9-2 is a welcomed surprise.

Georgetown at Alabama (9:30 ET): Best game of the night, period. Are you sure what Georgetown is yet? We do know the Hoyas take care of the ball very well. That early trend could be bucked in Tuscaloosa, though, because Alabama is on its way to being a top-five defensive team in the country. Teams are shooting a 35.7 effective field goal percentage against the Tide. Second-worst in the country.


Florida at Syracuse (7 ET): I'll keep this strictly to basketball, because I'm not sure how much I'll be able to do that one I get there to cover the game. Basically, I'm intrigued as hell. I love Bradley Beal's (right, with Billy Donovan) game. I'm still not sold on Florida's four-guard look, even if Patric Young gets his chances to play janitor when that happens. No Erik Murphy for the Gators means they're less dynamic. I like Syracuse is a really fun one. With the Orange, you're just never sure who's going to be the player that has the big game. Looks like someone's going to need to decidedly have a huge night to beat a team a lot of people like to make the Final Four.

Cincinnati at Georgia (7 ET): Car-wreck factor has be interested. When will Cinci start playing at a level that's indicative of the talent it has on this team? Georgia's in a third-gear year, I think.

Vanderbilt at Louisville (9 ET): What do you think about this one? Vanderbilt certainly not expected to win it (I haven't checked, but I'd put the Cards at about -4.5 here). Louisville's still not at full strength, nor is Vandy. Goodman's going to be at this game. I think this one adds up to little, even if it's nice in the moment. Because come late February, both these teams will have personnel on the floor that didn't play in this game. If Vandy/'Ville are vying for the 3-seed line and you want to give the winner of this the bid, by all means, but beyond that there won't be much long-term effect from this game. I think John Jenkins struggles in this one, too.

Auburn at Seton Hall (9 ET): Oh, get it out of my face, please.


Arkansas at UConn (3:15 ET): The Hogs are without Marshon Powell and so I don't see how Mike Anderson's new team keeps this within 20. UConn's due for a really impressive, really big win. I want to see how Alex Oriakhi plays in front of the home crowd in Hartford. Oriakhi's been public with this playing-time situation. UConn will grow and stumble a little more in December, but I'm betting we're putting this team in the highest echelon by New Year's Day.

Pittsburgh at Tennessee (5:15 ET): I'd call this game the biggest true toss-up of any listed here. I'm down on Pitt this year in regard to most others. A win here would be very uplifting for Jamie Dixon's team. Same can be said for Cuonzo Martin at Tennessee, who's probably still punching the pillow after his Vols couldn't steal that game against Memphis in Maui.

LSU at Rutgers (7 ET): Just a couple of truly nondescript, non-enthralling 4-3 BCS conference teams. I think I'd rather put away my summer clothes into storage.

West Virginia at Mississippi State (9 ET): The final game of the Challenge, it's the kind of game MSU should win without controversy if it wants to be top-20 caliber. WVU is down, considerably down, this season. The Bulldogs have twice as much talent on this team -- and a lot more size, even if Denis Kilicli will bruise it up down low with Renardo Sidney and/or Arnett Moultrie. The flip side: Huggins has been known to get his team to steal wins in these kind of spots.

Photos: AP
Posted on: October 11, 2011 9:14 am

Woolridge continues pursuit of true double major

By Jeff Borzello

Renaldo Woolridge has a growing underground following, a verified Twitter account and one of the strongest fan bases in college basketball.

None of that is because he’s a senior forward for Tennessee or because he’s the son of former NBA veteran Orlando Woolridge. It’s because he’s a rising rapper and goes by the name of Swiperboy a.k.a. SB.

“Early on, people knew me as a basketball player,” Woolridge said by phone. “But since a number of my songs have gone viral, it’s changed. A lot of the people that know me are just music fans; they don’t know about the basketball. I think that will change once the season starts.”

Woolridge played in just eight games last season for the Volunteers, but he averaged 3.4 points and 2.9 rebounds during his sophomore season. He was a highly-touted recruit coming out of high school, but he Woolridge has made a name for himself on wax instead of on the court.

“When I started off, it was just an outlet. I called it a verbal diary,” Woolridge said. “It’s kind of an alter ego, so I don’t want to mix the two worlds. I talk about both; I talk about being an athlete. But I’ve never said my name in a song.”

He burst onto the scene with catchy tracks like “Never Leave You Like Kiffin” and “Eric Berry,” songs that combine his rhyming ability with his status as a Tennessee student-athlete. Woolridge has eight mixtapes under his belt, with the latest one, “Zazzzle,” coming out earlier this week.

He mostly raps over industry beats from some of the hottest songs in the country, but there are also original tracks on the mixtape. Woolridge said it’s a more mature record than his previous releases, with plenty of different styles of music and varying emotions throughout the album.

“To me, Zazzzle is a wild word,” Woolridge said of the title. “It’s an exclamation word, it kind of stands out. I used three z’s because people are sleeping on me, in both the basketball and music world. I want this to get people’s attention, to wake them up.”

With practice starting on Friday and the season less than a month away, Woolridge wanted to make sure he released the mixtape now. One of the biggest knocks on Woolridge since he began gaining attention for his musical talents is his lack of basketball focus – many think he doesn’t spend enough time working on the hardwood.

While injured last season, Woolridge created a stir when he filmed a music video inside a Knoxville bar – and reportedly received exclusive access free of charge in order to use the bar. It was deemed not to be a violation, but it was another example of Woolridge making more of an impact off the court than on the court.

“The public perception is that it’s a juggling act,” Woolridge said. “I understand why people might feel that way. But last year, I was injured, so I didn’t play the whole season. If I had a more stable college career, it wouldn’t be an issue.”

Woolridge is looking to change the mind of his music critics with “Zazzzle.” He’s also trying to change his reputation on the basketball court with a big senior season. On a Volunteers team with a severe lack of size and frontcourt depth, Woolridge has the opportunity to go out with a bang.

With a successful senior season, the 6-foot-9 small forward thinks he has a chance to achieve his major objective.

“I want to be the first player drafted to be a mainstream hip-hop artist,” Woolridge said. “A few have tried. But with the amount of buzz I have, with my Twitter account verified, I think my music career is right at the bottom of mainstream. If I have a really good season and get drafted, that’s my main goal. I want to show, if you have a dream, you can do both.”

Photos: US Presswire, Album Cover

Posted on: September 29, 2011 5:57 am
Edited on: September 29, 2011 6:07 am

Meet Chris Jones -- future JUCO All-American

By Gary Parrish

I wrote a column this week about two of Bruce Pearl's former assistants who are now coaching at a junior college.

(If you haven't read it, it's right here.)

The story focuses on how the lives of Steve Forbes and Jason Shay have changed since they were fired because Pearl was photographed hosting a recruit at his home in violation of NCAA rules, so I didn't really get into the basketball taking place at Northwest Florida State. But it's good basketball. Forbes and Shay have assembled a roster that could compete for a national title and is highlighted by a player who was supposed to be a Tennessee Vol.

"I thought I'd be at Tennessee, but I'm glad I'm here," said Chris Jones, a high-scoring product of Melrose High in Memphis who committed to the Vols in January 2010 but landed in junior college for academic reasons. "I'm glad I'm here because I'm with a group of good guys who are trying to help me get to the next level."

And he'll get there, almost certainly.

Jones is a 5-9 point guard -- strong and explosive and gifted. He was the Most Valuable Player of the Tennessee State Tournament during his final year at Melrose, and it's worth noting that McDonald's All-American Adonis Thomas was also on that team. Put another way, Jones was more important to Melrose's success than the more-heralded Thomas, but Jones never got the same kind of hype in the city because he flourished relatively late and played opposite White Station High's Joe Jackson, a McDonald's All-American who is now a sophomore at Memphis. Josh Pastner chose to recruit Jackson and not Jones for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that most didn't think Jackson and Jones could play together. They had a pretty intense rivalry in high school, one that Jones used to place a massive chip on his own shoulder.

"Every time somebody says 'Joe,' I get 50 [points]," Jones said. "Whenever somebody would tell me Joe is better than me, I'd give them 50."

That's only a slight exaggeration. And if you're wondering whether Pastner's desire to have Jones be a part of the Memphis program has changed, the answer is yes. The third-year coach spent Monday watching Jones workout at Northwest Florida State. He's a clear target for the Class of 2013.

"I've opened Memphis' eyes," Jones said. "Memphis is beating down the door to get me now."

Lots of other schools are too.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com