Fall River's Kris Stokes Living His Own Hoop Dreams

12/19/2002

By Tony Ferullo

Kris Stokes may never make it to the NBA, but he's a lot closer than most people will ever get.

The pride of Fall River is presently showcasing his talents to various NBA teams, although those skills have nothing to do with slam dunking, shooting 3-pointers or rebounding in traffic. His repertoire on display involves getting water, ice, towels and anything else pro clubs request in his role as a work study student at Suffolk University in downtown Boston.

Instead of playing against NBA stars, the 5-foot-10-inch, 200-pound Stokes is rubbing elbows with them and loving every minute of it. "Working these NBA practices is awesome," said Stokes, a 1998 graduate of Durfee High School, where he excelled on both the basketball court and baseball field. "The players are so cool and you get to talk to them on a one-on-one basis. When I hear that an NBA team is coming in to practice, it brightens up my day."

By his own admission, Stokes, 22, is a basketball junkie. He gets high on crossover dribbles, no-look passes and reverse layups. Walking around, shaking hands and conversing with pro players is making his "Hoop Dreams" become a reality.

"There has always been a fire burning inside me about the game of basketball," said Stokes, a senior majoring in communications at Suffolk. "I grew up playing the game at a young age and would always go to Coach Skip Karam's basketball camp. It's a sport that's so much fun to play."

Suffolk University offers its Regan Gymnasium, per request by the Boston Celtics, to a number of NBA teams both during the regular season and in the summer (when the Shaw's Pro Summer League is underway). The gym's proximity to the FleetCenter and downtown hotels has made this opportunity convenient and secure for many NBA squads.

Since all the practices are closed to the public, Stokes considers himself quite lucky. His job requires him to not only set up the gym, but also monitor the privacy and practice demands of each NBA club. "I usually have to be in the gym an hour before the team arrives," explained Stokes, whose favorite NBA team is the Boston Celtics, with Paul Pierce being the player he most admires. "Once everyone gets here, they usually tell me exactly what they need."

He has worked the Washington Wizards practice, witnessing every move made by His Airness, Michael Jordan. He has also chatted with Phoenix Suns forward Tom Gugliotta about everything from Suffolk to the Sopranos. Then there was the time he got an up-close look at Shaquille O'Neal of the Los Angeles Lakers, causing his head to spin in disbelief. "He is the most imposing player I've ever seen," said Stokes of the striking 7-foot-1-inch, 338-pound giant. "He's larger than life. When he walks into the gym, all eyes are on him."

Following a recent Suns' practice, Phoenix star forward Shawn Marion asked Stokes, an outstanding player on the highly successful Suffolk baseball team the past two seasons, if he would run to the local variety store and buy him a Gatorade.

Stokes responded quickly, but not before he had all the details. "I asked him, 'red or green,'" said Stokes. 'He said, 'I like green.'" Stokes was rewarded with autographs from Marion and his teammates.

Much of the two-hour practice sessions, according to Stokes, are comprised of conditioning, drills and going over plays. "They practice what they need to work on," said Stokes. "They don't really have to put on a show for anyone because there's no one in the gym but themselves."

Jim Nelson, the veteran athletic director at Suffolk University, has been impressed with Stokes work study performance. "Just as Kris has represented Suffolk University with distinction over the past two seasons with his pitching and outfield prowess, we are equally proud of his goodwill ambassadorship in welcoming the National Basketball Association teams to Suffolk University," said Nelson. "He is a terrific young man who truly enjoys his work study responsibilities."

Scheduled to graduate in December of 2003, Stokes future plans include going to graduate school and then becoming a television sports journalist. Who knows? Maybe one day he'll be on ESPN doing a live spot from inside an NBA arena.

Considering his past, Kris Stokes should handle that job quite comfortably. He already knows what it's like to have a front row seat to all the action.

(Tony Ferullo is Associate Director of Public Affairs at Suffolk University).

For more information, please contact:
Tony Ferullo at 617-573-8448

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