Sometimes all it takes is one game. For a shooter, sometimes all it takes is one shot. One layup, turns into one rhythm jumper, turns into one deep three, turns into one great game, turns into an entire season’s worth of confidence for a shooter. For Villanova’s senior shooting guard, Corey Stokes, that game came on a cold December night against Penn.
Coming in to the game against the Quakers, in 7 games, Stokes was averaging 13.4 points. He was shooting 42% from the field along with 38% from three. For a Villanova team that was dependent on two other star guards Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns, these numbers were actually not bad. However, if Villanova was going to contend in the Big East and eventually make a run deep in the tournament, they were going to need more than “not bad” from there starting senior guard.
Then came December 8th in the Palestra and as Jay Wright put it, “Thank God for Corey Stokes.” The senior went for a career high 34 points on 11-15 shooting and 5-9 from three point range, as Villanova beat Penn 65-53 in a hard fought Big 5 game, where then leading scorer Corey Fisher did not even start.
Since that night, in the 6 games that have followed (not counting the latest game against Cincinnati), Stokes is averaging 19 points, shooting 53% from the field, and a staggering 56% from three point land. These numbers are not even factoring in the big night at the Palestra.
In the games following the Penn game, he has shot 20 less times while only making 2 less shots, and has shot 9 less threes while making 4 more.
If you could describe this new-found Corey Stokes in one word. Efficient.
Perhaps the most eye-popping difference in Corey Stokes’ numbers since that game has come from the free-throw line. Before December 8th, he shot only 11 foul shots in 7 games (although he did make all 11). Since that date, in one less game, Stokes has gone to the line 3 times that amount, shooting 31-33 from the charity stripe, good for 94%.
What Stokes has done is taken his weaknesses and made them his strengths. Everybody in the Big East knows Corey Stokes can shoot. So far through this young season however, he has made the transformation from pure shooter to legitimate scorer.
Last season as a starter, Stokes averaged 9.5 points on 41% shooting and 38% from three. This season he’s upped his scoring to 16.6 points on 48% shooting and 46% from three, possibly making himself the front runner for Most Improved Player in the Big East.
Of the 85 players in Division 1 basketball that have attempted at least 100 three pointers, only Ohio State’s Jon Diebler (50%) is shooting a higher percentage than Corey Stokes.
With Fisher and Wayns struggling with consistency so far this season, it has been the steady senior guard that has led the Wildcats to their 14-1 record and unblemished Big East record thus far.
If he keeps this up, at 6’5 and over 200 pounds, Stokes has the kind of body that, combined with his shooting touch and defensive prowess, could attract some NBA scouts.There are players in the NBA that have made a living on playing tough man to man defense and hitting open threes (see Bruce Bowen, Shane Battier, and Raja Bell). Stokes has proven he can shoot, and hes got the tools as a good defender (ask Temple’s Ramon Moore), there is no reason he can’t get a shot to make an NBA team.
For now though, for a Villanova team that was looking for a third scorer, if they can get Wayns and Fisher back on track and continue to get consistent scoring out of Stokes. With the continued improvement of the inside game of Antonio Pena and youngsters Mouph Yarou and Isiah Armwood, Villanova could be a legitimate contender in not only a loaded Big East, but in the national picture as well.
About the Author
Written by Brendan Kelly
Hoops junkie. Graduated from Temple U with a broadcasting and communications degree looking to get into a career in sports, more specifically basketball.