Sioux Falls Skyforce forward Jarnell Stokes missed two games this week with an illness, and in his return Friday night he looked just like himself, dominating throughout.
Stokes posted a line of 28 points (13-18 FG) and 15 rebounds in the Skyforce's 109-104 victory over the Fort Wayne Mad Ants at the Sanford Pentagon. Stokes and center Keith Benson propelled Sioux Falls to 70 points in the paint.
Stokes looked rusty at first, committing two turnovers in the early stages of the first quarter, but Sioux Falls continued to feed him down low and he rewarded the coaches for their confidence. After shaking off the rust, he was almost unstoppable.
"I didn't want to force things coming in," Stokes said. "I just tried to play within the flow of the game."
Double teams became so ineffective that by the third quarter, Fort Wayne started triple teaming Stokes on a few possessions. With just over two minutes left in the third, Stokes got an entry pass on the right block as two help defenders swarmed him. Within a few seconds, one defender had fallen down and Stokes put the other two put in the spin cycle. He blew the wide open layup, possibly surprised by how wide open he was, but got the rebound before being fouled.
"I thought it was one of his best games of the season with the Skyforce," Sioux Falls head coach Dan Craig told RidiculousUpside.com. "He was very dominant. He gives us 4-out 1-in, and we have shooting around him, which gives him space to do some work down there."
"I have a ways to go, but I feel like I can be an NBA player (right now)," Stokes said. "I feel like I can help the Miami Heat. But I'm having fun -- these guys play the game the right way. But as far as NBA purposes, I feel like I'm ready for that."
DeAndre Liggins missed his third straight game with a foot injury.
The Mad Ants had two players on assignment from the Indiana Pacers: Rakeem Christmas and Shayne Whittington. Christmas scored just seven points but was limited to 19 minutes due to foul trouble. Whittington often looked like the worst player on the court, and he was a game-worst -15. He had the misfortune of guarding Stokes most of the night, and he repeatedly proved he was not ready for the challenge.