St. Bernard High basketball star Ed Stokes, a 6-11 senior headed for the University of Arizona, has been named the Southern Section Division I Player of the Year by the First Interstate Bank/Amateur Athletic Foundation board of sportswriters.
Stokes was the only South Bay prep selected to the Division I team, which consists of players from the Southern Section 5-AA and 5-A divisions. He was a near-unanimous pick as player of the year, outpolling Lakewood forward Brian Camper.
In leading St. Bernard to a 23-6 record and the Camino Real League title, Stokes averaged 25 points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots a game. His rebound and block totals were the best in the South Bay.
The agile center bounced back from an injury-plagued junior season to blossom into one of the Southland’s most dominant big men. He improved his inside play, shooting 76% from the floor, and continued to display a nice shooting touch. He was the Vikings’ second-best three-point shooter and made 73% of his free throws.
“He probably has as much big-time potential as anybody we’ve had,” said St. Bernard Coach Jim McClune.
Although he was double- and triple-teamed in most games, Stokes carried the Vikings throughout the season. And he did it without the help of the team’s second-best player, senior forward Juno Armstrong, a three-year varsity starter who was sidelined early in the season with a viral infection.
Stokes led St. Bernard to the second round of the 5-AA playoffs, where the Vikings lost to Redlands. He was a unanimous choice as the Camino Real Most Valuable Player.
Stokes enjoyed some of his best performances against tough competition.
He had 34 points, 23 rebounds and 10 blocked shots Dec. 17 in a 65-61 win over Bay League titlist Rolling Hills in the championship game of the Beverly Hills Tournament. A week later, he scored a game-high 29 points in a match-up against Artesia’s highly regarded center, 6-8 junior Ed O’Bannon, to lead the Vikings to an 87-67 victory in the Las Vegas Valley Tournament.
Stokes, who signed with Arizona last November, becomes the 22nd St. Bernard player to earn a spot with a four-year college team since 1979. He chose the Wildcats over Louisville, Syracuse and UCLA.
“I felt (Arizona’s) Lute Olson would be a great coach for me,” he said. “He’ll help bring out the best in my game.”
Arizona, ranked No. 1 in the nation at the end of the regular season, lost in the NCAA West Regional semifinals to Nevada-Las Vegas.