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By LARRY VAUGHT
Despite speculation that he has already decided to start his college career in January, high school senior Jarnell Stokes of Memphis says he still has not finalized a decision on what heâ€™ll do.
â€œRight now Iâ€ˆam undecided about whether to go mid-year (to college) or stick it out (in high school),â€ said Stokes. â€œMy dad and I have discussed more options. Iâ€™m just not ready to reveal anything yet. I am constantly praying and think I could be coming to a decision. But I am not sure yet. I want to make sure I am definite about my answer when I do make my decision.â€
The 6-8, 225-pound power forward is regarded as a top 20 recruit in the 2012 class by every major recruiting service. He transferred to Southwind High School in Memphis to play his senior season, but was ruled ineligible by the state. Now he has the option of graduating in December and being eligible to play in college in January.
Stokes has made official visits to Kentucky, Florida, Arkansas, Memphis and Tennessee. Memphis has been considered the favorite, but Stokes would not reveal who was at the top of his list Tuesday.
One problem for Kentucky could be that the Cats donâ€™t seem to have an available scholarship for the remainder of the season. Memphis does not, either.
â€œI have had a lot to deal with and still do,â€ Stokes, 17, said. â€œI have been working out a lot, playing point guard on the JV (junior varsity) team. That has been fun. I think of it like the NBA lockout, except for me it is in the high school lockout. You just have to have fun with it because I canâ€™t change it.â€
Stokes said it has been hard to make a final decision on college â€œwith schools pulling me different directionsâ€ with what they have to offer.
â€œI donâ€™t want to let a coach down or waste his time. Itâ€™s a hard decision,â€ Stokes, a honors student, said. â€œWith prayer, comes answers. Thatâ€™s what I believe.â€
Stokes grew up a Memphis fan when current UK head coach John Calipari was leading the Tigers.
â€œI used to always watch him coach at Memphis, but I had no relationship with him until our relationship started to build with him at Kentucky,â€ Stokes said. â€œI like his ability to get guys to the NBA. Not many coaches are doing that like him right now.
â€œBut he also has a great compassion about the game. He is one of the best coaches when it comes to actually coaching. I went to practice and he really coaches. He gets on you and pushes you to the max. No matter how talented you are, he is on you.â€
Stokes, like every player Calipari recruits, wants to play in the NBA. Recruiting analysts tout his ability to pay in the paint and consider him a tenacious rebounder. Scout.comâ€™s analysis said: â€œHe’s a tough 6-foot, 245-pound big man that doesn’t mind mixing it up and can finish through contact around the basket. He needs to continue to develop his post moves, but he finds ways to be effective around the rim.â€
Stokes readily admits â€œgetting to the next levelâ€ will be a big part of his college decision.
â€œI want to play a better role inside and outside. I think I have really worked toward being more versatile,â€ Stokes said. â€œThere is no doubt playing style and connections to the NBA will be a big part of my decision.â€
Heâ€™s not worried about where his college choice is in proximity to Memphis.
â€œThe people at the school will be my guys and my family to be. That wonâ€™t change no matter where I go,â€ Stokes said.
He doesnâ€™t know any of UKâ€™s current player other than talking to them during his official visit.
â€œI talked to Michael Gilchrist the most and hung out with him. The whole visit was a fun experience. Basketball is 24/7 at Kentucky,â€ Stokes said.
He knows much more about UK signees Archie Goodwin, Willie Cauley and Alex Poythress.
â€œI have been roommates with Archie Goodwin at camps. I have gone to a lot of camps with Alex and Goodwin.â€ˆI have a great relationship with them,â€ Stokes said. â€œI have actually been roommates with Willie, too, and like him.â€
Stokes did not that he had â€œrelationships at just about every schoolâ€ that is recruiting him.
â€œItâ€™s just really going to come down to my heart and whatever way God leads me,â€ Stokes said. â€œI am definitely looking forward to winning at whatever school Iâ€ˆgo to and putting the team over myself. I think I will be a great player wherever I go.â€
Stokes is active on social media and has learned plenty about Kentucky basketball fans that way.
â€œKentucky are the craziest fans all the time,â€ Stokes said. â€œNo other fans are quite like them. But Iâ€ˆknow Iâ€ˆam definitely blessed. Itâ€™s a blessing for guys to follow me on Twitter, write a paragraph about me. Iâ€ˆknow I am blessed, so I just enjoy it.â€