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Surf’s up: Lincoln’s Stokes picks Hawaii

Everyone’s favorite vacation spot will be Shaquille Stokes’ home the next four years.

Lincoln’s do-it-all point guard, signed a National Letter of Intent with Hawaii last Tuesday, capping a memorable senior season.

The 5-foot-10 Harlem native with the deadly jump shot and fearless temperament picked the Rainbow Warriors of the Western Athletic Conference over Western Kentucky, TCU and Colorado State.

“It’s great knowing I got a free education,” he said. “It’s always been my dream since I started playing the game of basketball.”

Stokes took official visits to Hawaii and Colorado State in the past two weeks, but was offered the opportunity to play right away at Hawaii and fell in love with the Honolulu campus on his first trip to the tropical paradise.

It was raining on his visit, but Stokes still visited the beach, just a 15-minute drive from campus. He plans to spend a lot more time in the gym than on the sand however.

“I’m not the surfing type of guy,” he said.

Stokes did get to do a little sightseeing and enjoyed the many benefits the Island can offer.

“I’ll just say Hawaii is better than advertised,” Stokes said with a laugh. “I know it’s a long way and it’s a new experience, but change had to come some day. It’s a great fit for me.”

He rounds out coach Gib Arnold’s six-man recruiting class that includes three junior college standouts. Hawaii went 19-13 last year, 8-8 in the WAC, and played in the collegeinsider.com postseason tournament.

“The program is up-and-coming,” said Stokes, who led Lincoln to the Brooklyn AA regular-season title, the borough crown, and PSAL Class AA title game at the Garden. “A lot of guys go to big schools, but Hawaii is on the rise.”

Stokes’ family and Lincoln coach Dwayne (Tiny) Morton were pleased to see Arnold take such an active role in Stokes’ recruitment. Morton knew Arnold from his days as an assistant coach at USC when he recruited Lance Stephenson and Stokes spoke with his good friend, Lamont (Momo) Jones, who Arnold recruited to USC before he landed at Arizona.

“I’m thinking this will be a good look for Shaq,” his mother, Chervantes Stokes, said.

Stokes’ senior year was a memorable one. He got his grades in order, developed leadership skills that were previously lacking and became a playmaker as much as a scorer, averaging 18.4 points, five rebounds and four assists per game. He bonded with Morton and helped the Railsplitters return to the USA Today national rankings.

“He’s a successful young man,” Morton said. “He’s got a scholarship, he’s graduating from high school, he’s moving on in life. I’m happy for him.”

As for the next step in his basketball career, Stokes will be given the opportunity to play right away in Arnold’s up-tempo system. One Division I assistant coach familiar with Stokes thinks he can be a difference maker after adjusting to Division I basketball.

“He’s a quick, athletic scoring point guard who really competes,” the coach said. “And he knows how to win, too.”

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