Jarnell Stokes has had himself quite a year.
After graduating high school in three and a half years (he was forced to after a failed transfer for his senior season), he enrolled early at Tennessee and became one of their most important players. He scored nine points in just 17 minutes — after less than a week of practice — against Kentucky, went for 16 points and 12 boards against UConn’s big front line and ended the year averaging 9.6 points and 7.4 boards while helping the Vols to a 9-3 finish to the season.
All of it while he was supposed to be a high school senior.
If that wasn’t promising enough, Stokes was named to the USA’s U-18 team last week. In simpler terms, there is good reason that Stokes is one of our country’s brightest young ballplayers.
But there is more to Stokes than just being able to play a sport really well.
The 6-foot-8 behemoth has befriended Trey Erwin, a 15 year old football player from Tennessee that was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Less than two weeks ago, Stokes attended a party and prayed with the Erwins, convincing head coach Cuonzo Martin — a cancer survivor himself — to call Trey.
And it will be in Trey’s honor that Jarnell will don the No. 13 during his stint on USA basketball:
“[Erwin] wore No. 13 in high school,” the 6-foot-8, 245-pound Stokes told SNY.tv by phone from Colorado Springs, Colo. ”His wish was to come to a ballgame and to meet me and that just stuck with me as a college player. I don’t consider myself to be of high stature but I really want to help him out.”
In all actuality, there really isn’t much that Stokes is going to be able to do to help Trey in his battle, but you’d be amazed what a few words of encouragement from an athlete you look up to can do. At the very least, taking a few minutes to brighten the day of a sick kid is a commendable act.
(UPDATE: Stokes is not the only one that has reached out to Erwin. Memphis head coach Josh Pastner and Tiger forward DJ Stephens have both spent time with him. Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace auctioned off sets to a playoff game to help Erwin. Apparently, Trey’s been a big deal in Memphis since his diagnosis. Obviously, a 15 year old with terminal cancer is a tragedy, but the way that his community has rallied around him renews some of my faith in humanity.
Thoughts and prayers go out to Trey and the rest of the Erwin family.)
(Image via Tailgate for the Cure)
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.