Point guard Shaquille Stokes, New York City's player of the year, decides to play ball at Hawaii
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, May 11, 2011
Nicknames? Shaquille Stokes has many.
Pedigree? He's got plenty of that, too.
Stokes, a 5-foot-10, 160-pound senior point guard at Lincoln High in Brooklyn, N.Y., signed to play with the Hawaii men's basketball team for the 2011-12 season yesterday, choosing the Rainbow Warriors over Colorado State.
His decision comes on the heels of a stellar prep career in one of the toughest places to play in the country. Lincoln has produced talents such as Stephon Marbury and Sebastian Telfair and even pulled weight in the fictional realm — Jesus Shuttlesworth of "He Got Game" fame went to Lincoln.
As a senior, Stokes more than held his own with averages of 18.4 points, five rebounds and four assists in leading the Railsplitters to the NYC public school championship game and earning league MVP honors. He was named the New York City Player of the Year yesterday by the New York Daily News.
The lithe Stokes, who was named after Shaquille O'Neal, might not resemble anything close to the hulking NBA veteran, but might match The Diesel in one category: nomenclature.
"They call me Shaq. Old Shaq Stokes. They call me a bunch of nicknames," Stokes said last night. "(Growing up) I felt great, knowing that Shaquille O'Neal's famous. Maybe I could be famous one day, me playing the game of basketball or me doing something else in my life. I just want to live up to the name."
UH coach Gib Arnold sold Stokes on the idea that Hawaii was the place to do the living, despite nothing but rainy weather during Stokes' official visit to UH over the past weekend. Arnold had inroads with Lincoln coach Dwayne "Tiny" Morton from recruiting past players and also was familiar with Stokes' AAU coach. Stokes lived down the block from Lamont "MoMo" Jones, the Arizona guard whom Arnold tried to recruit to USC. Jones was happy to fill Stokes in about his future coach, that Arnold would drive him hard to be a better player. Stokes, whose favorite television show is "Hawaii Five-0," liked the sound of that.
"I felt it was like Lincoln all over again," Stokes said of his comfort with Hawaii. "(In New York City), any night, you're playing against somebody who can beat you. It helped my game a lot, made me a lot tougher, mentally and physically."
He'll get a chance to play right away in the first of four years of eligibility. More than any other spot, UH needed another point guard. Stokes joins a group next season that includes sophomore Bobby Miles, freshman combo guard Gerry Blakes and senior Miah Ostrowski, once Ostrowski joins the team at the end of UH football season in December.
"He's a very mature player and has a mature game. Definitely has some quickness, some breakdown ability, got some range, and he can guard the ball," Arnold said. "He's going to make everybody around him better, and we're thrilled to have someone of his caliber come halfway across the world to come join our ohana."
Some questions about his academics might have worked to Hawaii's favor as some high-major schools looking at Stokes weren't among his final choices (besides Colorado State, Texas Christian and Western Kentucky were the primaries). But he eventually became an academic qualifier and UH was able to scoop him up late in the spring signing period, becoming the sixth player signed overall for 2011-12.
"He's always been on the radar, but even up until this year, he was being courted by some pretty high-majors," Arnold said. "I know UCLA came in to see him and he expressed a desire to play in the Big East. So I think that kept a lot of people, including ourselves, at somewhat of a distance. But as it got down to it, later in the year, in talking to his coach and his AAU coach, they all said, ‘You know what? Shaquille's a little different than a lot of guys. He's still open, and he's not afraid to leave. He's open to going anywhere with a good fit.'
"I think when it's all said and done, he's going to have a great career here."