KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Jarnell Stokes is bypassing his senior season at Tennessee to enter the NBA draft.
Stokes, a 6-foot-8, 260-pound forward, confirmed Friday at a news conference that he has decided to begin his pro career. The news was first reported by CBSSports.com.
''I want to thank Tennessee for making these last three years so special,'' Stokes said. ''I definitely grew up and became a man here, and I'll always be a Vol for life.''
Stokes averaged 15.1 points and 10.6 rebounds per game to earn first-team all-Southeastern Conference honors this season while helping Tennessee go 24-13 and reach the Midwest Regional semifinals. He had 22 double-doubles to tie the school single-season record set by Bernard King in 1976-77.
Stokes was at his best in the NCAA tournament, where he averaged 18 points and 12.8 rebounds in four games. Stokes said he informed Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin of his decision on Tuesday. Stokes also said he was encouraged to enter the draft by Orlando Magic forward and former Tennessee star Tobias Harris.
A mock draft on the Web site draftexpress.com has Stokes getting taken in the second round with the 53rd overall pick. ESPN's Chad Ford released a list of his top 30 draft-eligible prospects this week that didn't include Stokes but mentioned him as one of his five ''next players in.''
''I feel like some teams are giving me a shot at the first round,'' Stokes said. ''It just all depends on where I work out at and how I work out. I feel like I control my own destiny.''
Stokes also had considered entering the draft last year before deciding to return for his junior season. He believes he boosted his stock this year by running the floor better and adding an occasional 12- to 15-foot jump shot.
He believed he was more prepared to enter the draft this year and noted the sacrifices he'd made as a college athlete.
''College is definitely a struggle,'' Stokes said. ''It's hard to walk in the mall and they're selling your jersey for $100 and that's enough to pay your phone bill, that you can't even pay.''
Stokes' departure means that Tennessee will have to replace four of its top five scorers from this year's team. Stokes' exit and the transfer of Quinton Chievous also mean the Volunteers have two scholarships available if they want to bring in a transfer or add to their four-man recruiting class.