Shaquille Stokes spent his first year in Coney Island desperately seeking to fit in. He adhered to seniors and listened intently to his coaches. He desperately wanted to please.
His goal this summer is vastly different – he wants to stick out.
“I need to be a leader,” Stokes said.
Lincoln graduates three core starters – Lance Stephenson, Darwin (Buddha) Ellis and James Padgett. There will be pressure on Stokes, a 5−foot−11 guard who transferred in from St. Patrick’s (N.J.) last fall. He had a solid season as an underclassman, averaging 10 points and five assists per game for the four−time PSAL Class AA champions.
“It changed me a lot as a player and a person,” he said. “It taught me what it takes to be a winner. It made me more humble.”
Stokes added: “It starts in practice. Lance was always ready in practice.”
A former point guard himself, Lincoln coach Dwayne (Tiny) Morton has demanded Stokes be more vocal and learn to become a pure point guard. It is why Morton, who runs the Juice All Stars AAU program, has Stokes playing on the 17−and−under and 16−and−under teams. There are Railsplitters on both clubs.
“The biggest thing is him getting used to the players and used to me,” Morton said.
Stokes has gone out of his way to be an orchestrator. With Ellis, he often played off the wall over the winter; he doesn’t have that luxury anymore. He said the most important thing he is working on knowing when to get others involved and when to look for his shot.
“I need to pick my spots,” he said. “So people will want to play with me.”
Junior wing Lazzaro Martinez said he has already seen a difference in Stokes. He talks more on the court and off of it. He’ll speak to the entire team at the free throw line, chastise players for mistakes and applaud them, too.
“He’s trying to talk a lot,” Martinez said.
Stokes said he hasn’t thought a whole lot about what next season will be like; he’s trying to focus on the AAU season first. He did say he expects it to be different yet fun. Stokes wants to show he is worthy of being the next great player to lead Lincoln to the promised land, an accomplishment, Stokes said, many doubt can be accomplished.