(WBIR - Knoxville) On Friday afternoon, power forward Jarnell Stokes joined a short list of players in the history of hoops at the University of Tennessee to vacate the Vols as an underclassman for the NBA.
If Stokes achieves his goal of being drafted in the first round, he will become only the ninth Volunteer to can make that claim in NBA history.
UT's Early Departures
Stokes indicated his decision to leave early for the NBA draft was influenced by input from Tobias Harris.
In 2011, Harris became the first "one and done" player in UT history. He left the Volunteers after his freshman season and was selected in the first round of the NBA draft, 19th overall, by the Charlotte Bobcats. The Bobcats then immediately traded Harris on draft night to the Milwaukee Bucks. After two season with the Bucks, this season Harris was traded to the Orlando Magic.
The 2011 NBA draft also lured underclassman Scotty Hopson away from the University of Tennessee. The junior guard watched his teammate, Tobias Harris, go in the first round. Hopson then watched team after team fail to call his own name. After going undrafted, Hopson bounced around for a few years in Europe. He finally made a roster in the NBA within the last couple of weeks when he signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Without any doubt, the most successful player to leave Knoxville early for the NBA was Bernard King. The junior forward was selected with the seventh overall pick in the 1977 draft by the Nets. King went on to play his most memorable years for the New York Knicks as a prolific scorer who would eventually be inducted into the basketball hall of fame.
UT Round-Ball First-Rounders
In 1977, the other half of the "Bernie and Ernie Show" was also chosen in the first round of the NBA Draft. Bernard King's teammate, senior All-American guard Enrie Grunfeld, went 11th overall to the Milwaukee Bucks. Grunfeld's professional playing career lasted through the 1986 season. He has remained in the NBA as a leader in the front office. Grunfeld has served as general manager for the New York Knicks and the Milwaukee Bucks. The Washington Wizards have employed Grunfeld as the franchise's president of basketball operations since 2003.
Tennessee's first first-rounder remains the highest NBA draft pick in school history. In 1968, the Chicago Bulls selected big Tom Boerwinkle with the 4th overall pick. The seven-foot Boerwinkle was a dominant rebounder and an excellent passer during his 10-year career with the Bulls. He is second on the Bulls' all-time rebounding list and still holds the franchise's single-game rebounding record with 37 boards against the Phoenix Suns in 1970. He also dished out more than 2,000 assists for the Bulls during his career. Boerwinkle died in March 2013 at the age of 67.
Another big first-round draft pick from "Big Orange Country" was Reggie Johnson (15th overall) in 1980. Johnson's four-year NBA career was relatively short, but included a championship in 1983 with the Philadelphia 76ers.
The next two first-round draft picks from Tennessee were a couple of all-time sharpshooters. The Dallas Mavericks chose Dale Ellis ninth overall in the 1983 draft. Ten years later, the Detroit Pistons selected Allan Houston with the 11th pick in the 1993 draft.
Dale Ellis was known for his textbook shooting form and quick release that made him a devastating threat from the perimeter. It took him several years in the NBA to put his talents on full display, but eventually found significant playing time with the Seattle Supersonics. Ellis averaged more than 27 points per game for the Sonics in 1989. Ellis continued draining threes for several teams until his retirement in 2000. A total of 1,719 career three-pointers puts him seventh on the NBA's all-time record list for three-point shots made.
Allan Houston played four years at Tennessee for his father, head coach Wade Houston, from 1989 until 1993. Houston graduated as the school's all-time leading scorer and was chosen 11th by the Detroit Pistons in the 1993 draft. His career really blossomed when he signed as a free agent for the New York Knicks in 1996. The two-time NBA All-Star was selected as a member of the USA Olympic team in 2000.
The only other first-rounder in the history of Vols hoops is Marcus Haislip. The Bucks took Haislip 13th overall in the 2002 draft. The 6'10" power forward from Lewisville, TN, played two seasons in Milwaukee and one season for the Indiana Pacers before leaving the NBA in 2005. He returned for a short stint with the San Antonio Spurs in the 2009-2010 season. Haislip has truly been a worldwide journeyman with experience playing in Turkey, Spain, Greece, China, and Lebanon. He currently plays for the Jiangsu Dragons in China.