With 11:02 left on the clock, James Stokes, a six-foot, 175-pound point guard, who did not receive his big break until later in his high school career, was subbed into a game that would place him in the history books of Alcorn State University.
The Braves were up by 32 points but that did not stop Stokes from setting the tone for any guard that will fill his shoes or wear the number 0 after him. With a robust rebound by Troymain Crosby, the scene was set for Stokes to make his move on a fast break play with 12 seconds left on the clock. Stokes drove to the paint to give the fans a dunk like no other.
Stokes recalls, “I was in the basketball moment. I wasn’t focused on the crowd. I just played defense. I saw Troymain get the steal and I just ran down the court to get the ball and I jumped as high as I could and dunked the ball.”
The crowd erupted in applause and cheers as the men’s basketball team stormed the floor to give Stokes his due credit.
“It intensified so much after that play from the players, coaching staff and fans. Everyone in the gym was excited for me at that moment. I felt pretty good after that. I will never forget that,” says Stokes.
Coming from a small rural Mississippi town, Stokes never thought he would be playing basketball at Alcorn.
Stokes states, “Coming from Utica, Mississippi you either worked or were an athlete and I wanted to be an athlete. I just buckled down and worked as hard as I could. I told myself that I was going to find a way out and I chose basketball which led me to Alcorn. It was pretty tough growing up smaller than the other kids. The older kids did not want you to play but once they saw your potential and skill set, they wanted to play with you.”
They say your parents are your most significant motivators. After losing his mother in 2012, Stokes focused on making his supportive and motivating father proud.
“My biggest motivation to keep going is my dad. He’s the only thing I have now. After my mom passed away, I worked hard to make him happy. Losing my mom was the most challenging thing I’ve faced in my life. Every time I played or got on the floor, I thought about her. I would see my dad in the stands and not her. That motivated me to go hard for her and my dad,” stated Stokes.
With a promise he made to his mother, Stokes pushed himself to overcome adversities that had been set for him. Longing to play for Alcorn, Stokes made that dream happen.
Stokes says, “When my mom was living, I always told her I would play for Alcorn. I did not know how but I was going to accomplish my goal. She always believed in me and my dreams of playing basketball at Alcorn.”
Some may not have believed in the ability that Stokes held but he did not allow the doubters to detour him from his dream of playing basketball. For ten years, he had to prove his skill harder than others on the court to show that he was the man with a plan that could hold himself together on and off the court.
With each great person comes even greater supporters that have inspired him or her to keep going in their careers. To some, it may seem like they are just doing their jobs but to others, they are motivating and providing information that will impact them for a lifetime.
“I have to credit the entire Alcorn State University coaching staff for giving me a chance to play, especially assistant coach, Delvin Thompson. Also my former coach at Hinds Community College, Krayleon Winston, played a huge role in my development. Both coaches gave me valuable information on basketball. They have instilled in me the necessary things needed to keep pursuing my goals. I also have to thank former player Tamarcio Wilson for helping me get on the team as well,” stated Stokes.
On and off the court, Stokes is a versatile person. With such a strong spiritual background and interest in the arts he has become someone that has impacted the lives of those in his community, campus and those he meet on his everyday journey.
According to Stokes, “I definitely can not forget about my family and the constant support they give to me. My dad has done so much for me. He tells me quite often how proud of me he is. I also have to credit God for everything because without him none of this would be possible. I live by Philippians 4:13 which states, “You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.” I have to credit and thank my Godparents, Dr. and Mrs. Bishop Butler of Straightway Ministries, as well as my parents for giving me a sound religious background. I am truly grateful for those four.”
To raise his spirits and get in the right mindset before games, Stokes has a pregame ritual that allows him to get in the mood to ball out on the court. This helps him focus on execution and to feel positive about the game.
“On my game shoes, I have a scripture written on the side and before each game I touch them and pray. I do this before each game to give myself that needed motivation and push to go out on the floor and give the game my all,” says Stokes.