Every year, we have a group of players that, for whatever reason, are forced to join their team at the midway point of the season.
The cause varies. Some are academically ineligible for the first semester. Others transferred midway through the previous season and cannot suit up until they sit out for a full year. Some players are coming off of injury. Some are international players serving suspensions for games that they have played with professional players.
The most unique mid-season addition this year is Jarnell Stokes.
Stokes was 12th in the most recent edition of our Consensus Recruiting Rankings. But the Memphis native was ruled ineligible to play high school basketball in Tennessee this season. So the talented power forward did the most reasonable thing he could think of -- he buckled down on the books, graduated early and decided to enroll in college early.
And on Thursday evening, Stokes picked Tennessee over the likes of Memphis, Florida, Kentucky and UConn.
Obviously this is a big pick-up for first-year head coach Cuonzo Martin, as Stokes is the first elite Memphis product to enroll at Tennessee since Tony Harris back in 1997. Putting a recruiting footprint in a city that produces as much hoops talent as Memphis does is an important step for Martin. There's little doubt that Stokes will become a valuable member of the Vol program down the road.
But Martin needs help now. His team is 4-6 and reeling after an impressive performance in Maui. Is Stokes the answer?
Frankly, I don't think so. We're talking about a kid that is supposed to be a high school senior joining a team that already as their rotation set in the middle of conference play. He couldn't play this season, so not only has he not been practicing with the Vols, he hasn't been practicing with a team period. Having another big body won't be a bad thing, but don't expect Stokes to be the spark that sends Tennessee sky-rocketing in the SEC standings.
Who else will be joining (or has already joined) their team at the midway point of the season?
Festus Ezeli, Vanderbilt: Ezeli was suspended for the first six games of the season and missed an extra couple of games as he battled through a knee injury. He was impressive in his debut against Davidson (15 points, six boards, three blocks) but had just four points in his second game back. He's also missed the last two with knee pain. As good as Ezeli is, he doesn't address the issues that Vanderbilt has had this season.
Reggie Johnson and DeQuan Jones, Miami: Another big man battling through a knee injury, Johnson missed six months after surgery back in July. But he's come back strong, averaging 13.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 4.0 apg and 3.5 bpg in wins against Florida Atlantic and Charlotte. If he becomes a double-double force in the paint, Miami immediately become relevant in the ACC with the back court talent they have on that roster. Jones is a bit of a different story. Jones was ruled permanently inactive by Miami as the NCAA investigated the recruiting violations brought to light in Yahoo's report on Nevan Shapiro. Jones played 18 minutes against Charlotte on Thursday night, scoring seven points and grabbing six boards in 18 minutes.
Jelan Kendrick, Ole Miss: Kendrick finally made his collegiate debut with Ole Miss after infamously getting kicked off of the Memphis team before he ever played a game. His Rebel career didn't start off on the right foot, as he was suspended for the first game he was eligible for being late to a team meeting and a shootaround. He played eight scoreless minutes against at Southern Miss, but in a 68-56 loss to MTSU on Wednesday, Kendrick had eight points, three assists, three board and four steals. More importantly, he looked capable of playing the point
Gary Franklin, Baylor: Franklin is a sophomore from Cal that was a lauded recruit coming into college. At Cal, however, he has issues with his shot selection and his ability to protect the ball. Playing a bit role for the Bears, Franklin has provided 4-8 shooting from deep and four assists to just one turnover in three games.
Matt Carlino, BYU: The UCLA transfer has been terrific in his first three games as a Cougar, averaging 16.7 ppg and 6.3 apg while hitting 50% from three. He's not Jimmer, but he's a playmkaer in the back court, something that BYU didn't have at their disposal prior to Carlino's arrival.
Ferrakhon Hall, Memphis: We touched on Hall's importance to Memphis already today, but in short, the Seton Hall transfer provides a level of toughness and physicality in the paint that wasn't previously there for the Tigers.
Devoe Joseph, Oregon: The Ducks were lacking some offensive firepower with the transfer of Jabari Brown, but the addition of the former Minnesota point guard helped to quell those concerns. In six games since he's been eligible, Joseph is averaging 14.3 ppg, 2.7 apg and 3.3 rpg while turning the ball over just 11 times. More importantly, Oregon is 5-1 in those games.
Tony Mitchell, North Texas: Mitchell is far too good to be playing in the Sun Belt with a team like North Texas, but that's what happens when you struggle to get academically eligible. In three games coming off the bench, Mitchell is averaging 11.7 ppg and 7.7 rpg. He's also added five blocks and three steals. Mitchell is a difference maker for the Mean Green. They are now a legitimate contender in their league.
Amir Garrett, St. John's: Garrett is an extremely big addition to St. John's, but its not as much a result of how talented he is as much as it is an extra body to bring in off the bench. With Nurideen Lindsey's decision to transfer out of the program, Garrett becomes just the seventh scholarship player at Steve Lavin's disposal.
Pe'Shon Howard and Alex Len, Maryland: The Terps are, in all likelihood, not going to be an NCAA Tournament team this season regardless of what they do. But you can never say never, especially when you are dealing with a team that a) already has Terrell Stoglin in the mix and b) adds 40% of their starting lineup in the month of December. Howard makes his return from a broken foot on Friday night, while Len will be eligible after being suspended for the first 10 games on Dec. 28th.
Ian Miller, Florida State: Miller was academically ineligible for the first semester, but he made his season debut on Thursday night against Florida. The results were mixed -- he had seven points, but was 0-4 from three and had no assists. Miller's importance is that Florida State has struggled mightily offensively. He had the reputation in high school of being a big time playmaker.
Andre Cornelius, George Mason: Cornelius had to sit out the first 10 games of the season as the result of being arrested for credit card fraud. He returned to the lineup on Wednesday night and had 11 points in Mason's 75-64 loss to Duquesne. Cornelius will provide some much needed experience in that back court, but he's not a playmaker. He's a jump shooter. GMU is still looking for someone to replace what Cam Long and Luke Hancock provided.
Here are some other notable mid-season additions:
Kevin Ware, Louisville
Kadeem Jack, Rutgers
Guy Landry, Gonzaga
Reggie Smith, UNLV
Drew Viney and Ashley Hamilton, Loyola Marymount
Brandon Mobley, Seton Hall
Ty Walker, Wake Forest
Twany Beckham, Kentucky
Shawn Williams, SMU
Billy Baron and Andre Malone, Rhode Island
Noel Johnson, Auburn
Donte Hill, Old Dominion
Juwanza Poland, South Florida
Darnell Dodson, Southern Miss
Devon Moore, JMU