"Corey Fisher scores 105 points in a game." "Mouphtaou Yarou poised for a breakout season." "Maalik Wayns could enter NBA Draft after season." These are all headlines we’ve read and heard this offseason, but has anyone even mentioned senior captain Corey Stokes?
The sharpshooter known as the Bayonne Bomber has stayed relatively under the radar throughout his 4 years on the Main Line. Stokes was certainly not under the radar in high school; coming to Villanova as a McDonald’s All-American from St. Benedict’s in New Jersey, 'Nova Nation had high aspirations for the prolific guard.
Offensively, we have seen flashes of brilliance, where Stokes can drill treys from virtually anywhere on the court, but some of the slumps have been quite noticeable as well. Regardless of the inconsistencies shooting the ball, the improvements in other facets of the game have really stood out.
More on Corey Stokes after The Jump.
Although Stokes can fill it up at any time with hot shooting, he has carved out a role on the Wildcats as being the defensive stopper. Usually, you don’t see a kid who is known for his offense, who Jay Wright called "one of the best shooters he’s ever seen," truly mature into a consistent lockdown defender. He’s versatile enough to match up with bigger guards or smaller forwards, and he is one of the best rebounders on the team; Stokes’ rebounds per game have increased from 2.4 per game as a freshman to 4.0 per game as a junior.
One area of Stokes’ game that may have gone unnoticed is the increased confidence to dribble and create. Since his shot can be so lethal, defenders have to respect Stokes at all times. Pump fakes have been a great weapon for Corey, getting his opponent in the air and driving past them to move the defense and set up shots for others. I truly believe that Stokes does not care about personal statistics, especially as a senior now, so expect to see more of Corey handling the basketball and being one of the generals out there on the floor.
Being a general on the court requires a veteran presence and leadership, which will probably be one of the most important aspects for Stokes and the Cats this year. With Scottie Reynolds and Reggie Redding gone, the team falls into the hands of the likes of Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes, and Antonio Pena. The leadership factor cannot be underestimated; was the senior class of Dante Cunningham, Frank Tschuisi, Dwayne Anderson, and Shane Clark the most talented? Definitely not, but their ability to guide the team day in and day out proved to be crucial in that magical Final Four run.
Stokes is a consistent, solid, all-around player, which serves as a good example for the youngsters, and he began to lead this summer in offseason workouts. Guiding the underclassmen throughout the season as to what "Villanova Basketball" truly is all about will help the team this upcoming year, but also in the years to come when the current freshman and sophomores are taking over the program.