The “Chaos” system that Chattanooga basketball coach Will Wade brought with him from VCU comes with its own vernacular, some of it original and some of it, well, borrowed.
Take the term “madman,” which refers to the player at the top of the Mocs’ full-court press. “Someone with boundless energy,” Wade said. “Someone who’s all over the place, trying to make things happen. A madman.”
Madman may be appropriate, but it’s not original.
“I think we stole that from somebody,” Wade said. “I just can’t remember who. As soon as we heard it, we said that’s what we’re going to call the guy on the ball.”
Wade may not remember where the label came from, but he knows a madman when he sees one. Even before he was hired at Chattanooga, Wade studied the team’s personnel, and he knew there was a madman on the roster.
“He’s about the right length,” Wade said of the 6-foot-7 junior. “His wingspan is pretty good. He plays with a lot of energy—gets deflections and makes things happen. Lance can do all that. We’ve got to get his motor running more consistently so he can play longer stretches at that spot. But he really flies around and gets after it.”
After a career that, to this point, can best be described as injury plagued, Stokes is ready to go a little crazy.
As a freshman, Stokes suffered an ankle injury and missed three games. A year ago, a foot injured sidelined him for two months and 14 games.
This season, Stokes hopes to stay injury free and capitalize on what is essentially a new lease on his career—playing for a new coach with a dramatically different system.
“It’s a new opportunity for everyone,” Stokes said. “It’s kind of like you’re coming in from high school again. You’re starting fresh. You’ve got a chance to show what you’ve got from ground zero.”
What Stokes has is a rare combination of length and athleticism that will plug right into Wade’s system.
“He’s a versatile guy,” Wade said. “He can move his feet and guard guards. He’s obviously got the size to guard bigger guys. You need to be versatile in that spot, and Lance is certainly that.”
Stokes found that out early in the Mocs’ first workouts with Wade and his staff.
“Being able to play multiple positions helps,” Stokes said. “Being kind of a quick big. That helps when you’re running around chasing guards. You have to be quick on your feet. All of our bigs are like that.”
Physical gifts help, but to be a true madman, Stokes has to adapt a new mindset.
“You have to have a different sort of mentality,” he said. “That’s why it’s called the madman, because you have to bring that level of intensity.”
Stokes admits he’s not quite there yet. But there is ample evidence to suggest he will get there. The obvious sign is his body. He showed up on campus in early August a spindly 203 pounds. After weeks working for Wade’s handpicked strength and conditioning coach Greg Goldin, who came from the VCU system and most recently worked at mid-major power Murray State, Stokes has added 17 pounds of muscle.
Stokes still isn’t the incredible Hulk at 220 pounds, but he’s better able to do battle with opposing teams’ post players while still manning the all-important lead position in Wade’s press. Playing fast and furious is in Stokes’ nature.
“Everybody wants to play fast,” Stokes said. “Every college kid wants to get up and down the floor, score a lot and press. But a lot of coaches will say they’re going to play fast, and they don’t. Not coach Wade. We’re going to go full on all the time.
“It sounds fun, and it’s been fun. It’s tiring, and it wears down your body, but we’re getting there. We’re all working. It’s a process, and we’re making great strides to get there.”
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