Caleb Stokes waited for the chance to extensively show what he can do. He also lost 50 pounds to get to this moment.
"Stokes is a guy who had to get to our goal weight," University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Coach Solomon Bozeman said. "He had to get to 265 pounds. When he got here, he was 315 pounds, so he lost 50 pounds since he's gotten here. ... I'm proud of him because people don't know how hard he had to work to lose that weight."
On a night when Shaun Doss Jr. took the floor as the Southwestern Athletic Conference's Player of the Week, the 6-foot-8 Stokes stoked a crowd of 2,395 inside H.O. Clemmons Arena with 11 points and 5 rebounds off the bench to lead the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff to an 88-72 victory over archrival Mississippi Valley State University on Saturday night.
"I don't think people understand; it's really been a grind for Stokes since the summertime," said Doss, who dropped 22 points. "He definitely can help us."
Oh, yeah, Kylen Milton led the Golden Lions (10-12, 6-3) with 23 points and 6 assists.
Stokes, a Little Rock native who transferred from Southern Arkansas University Tech, played just 1 minute all season -- against Bethune-Cookman University -- before Saturday. But his 13 minutes, 49 seconds, on the court against Valley gave UAPB a much-needed presence with 6-8 swingman Chris Greene out because of injury.
Stokes made weight the day before the game, according to Bozeman.
"I'm happy," Stokes said. "I'm glad to be with this group. I love my coach and I love this team."
Stokes said he knew Bozeman expected a lot out of him, and he delivered.
"That was a good motivation right there," he said. "We're coming together. We've got a bright future."
UAPB has won six of seven, bouncing back from Monday's loss to Grambling State University, and will have a week off before hitting the road to Alcorn State University next Saturday.
The Lions finished this homestand winning two of three, knocking off a George Ivory-coached Valley team for the second time in as many tries. Ivory, the Lions' coach from 2008-21, was named interim coach for the final three games last season and given the full-time role for this season at his alma mater.
Rayquan Brown and Terry Collins each scored 15 points to lead the Delta Devils (2-21, 1-8), who have lost five in a row. Tyronn Mosley added 13 points and Kadar Waller had 12 in the loss.
"I think Coach Ivory's doing a really good job with his team," Bozeman said. "They were really active out of their zone tonight. I think they're going to win some games in this league because he does a good job with his guys. He's going to turn that thing around quick."
UAPB never trailed and built a lead as big as 22 points with 9:09 left in the game. That was after Ivory drew a technical foul arguing a no-call when former Golden Lion A.J. Stredic, who matched up with Stokes most of the night, was hit in the eye.
Stredic, a co-captain, scored 5 points in his return to Pine Bluff.
Stokes wasn't the only long-awaited face to take the court for UAPB. Trenton Harris, a sophomore manager for the team, checked in with 1:46 remaining. The 2021 honor graduate from Pine Bluff High School made one of two free throws with 19.9 seconds to go.
Kuron Coleman, a freshman guard from Newport News, Va., checked into his sixth career game with 56.2 seconds to go.
UAPB will tip off against Alcorn State at 4 p.m. next Saturday in Lorman, Miss.