A basketball star is excited to elevate his Girard Estate team’s stock.
Though he will not begin majoring in communications until next year, senior Tobias Stokes already has composed a stern message for the foes of Girard Academic Music Program, 2136 Ritner St.: Be prepared for battle. One season removed from leading his Girard Estate squad to a nine-game improvement, the 18-year-old shooting guard is preparing to guide it to greater gains, including a postseason berth.
“We’re going to be really good because we’re committed to giving our all and making opponents take notice,” the resident of Sixth and McKean streets, whose team will open its campaign with tomorrow’s 3:15 p.m. home game against The Academy at Palumbo, 1100 Catharine St., said Friday. “I want at least 13 wins and know we have the pieces to get them.”
Stokes, who has attended the magnet school since fifth grade, credits perceptions of the Pioneers as inferior athletes following their 2-20 mark two seasons ago as inspiration for a rejuvenation.
“Other schools wanted to play us to pad their records, and we went out and showed our talent,” he said of registering an 11-11 season, which included a 7-5 run against Division E adversaries. “Because of last season, we’re serious about being contenders.”
Stokes always has favored feeling fiery about hoisting GAMP into the upper echelon. After limited time as a freshman, he deposited 15.1 points per tilt in his inaugural year as a starter, upping that to 16 as a junior, each time heading the scoring list for coach Art Kratchman. One of the more memorable highlights was draining eight three-pointers in a 77-46 triumph over Friends Select.
“I rely on my speed and accuracy,” the 5-foot-9 athlete said of his style. “I like playing on the perimeter, but I can surprise people with my penetration skills, too.”
To break through to achieve greatness, his senior-heavy unit must aim for consistency against its division dwellers, including The Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts, 901 S. Broad St. Stokes noted the Pioneers have dealt with injuries but should find themselves fully loaded against Division D’s Palumbo.
“We made great leaps last year, but I don’t want for us to stop jumping,” he said with a smile. “I confess I used to be scared about playing certain schools because our mentality wasn’t the best. That’s changed now, and we’re ready for every challenge.”
Along with aiming for athletic harmony, the teenager has sought the musical equivalent since joining the GAMP community. Drums drew his attention during his time at Abraham S. Jenks Academic Plus, 2501 S. 13th St., and helped him to gain admission at his current site. He continued his rhythmic pounding for three more years before deciding to focus on his choir duties.
“I’m not sure how good I am at singing, but people have said I can do it,” he said. “I enjoy contributing.”
Stokes has furthered that philosophy throughout his matriculation, also serving as GAMP’s softball team manager for two years and as a volunteer for cleanups at Stephen Girard Park, 21st and Shunk streets. He also has gained important life lessons through extensive time as a member of the Ford P.A.L. Center, 609 Snyder Ave., where he has participated in numerous athletic and educational activities, including baseball, chess, flag football and the 24 Math Challenge.
Earlier this year, Officer Joseph Ellerby, the center’s director, nominated Stokes to receive commendation for his commitment. The youngster and more than 20 of his peers visited City Hall for the annual Lockheed Martin P.A.L. Day, which involved career development discussions.
“It was a great chance to learn about preparing for life,” Stokes, who received a memento from P.A.L.’s honorary president, Mayor Michael A. Nutter, said of the winter ceremony. “It really helped me to learn about many things, including managing schedules.”
As his final season in South Philly dawns, he has returned to the ever-challenging task of making sure his academic responsibilities receive ample attention, too. He excels in mathematics yet does not wish to study numbers as a collegiate, with Kutztown and West Chester universities as his primary interests.
“I enjoy communications and really feel I could excel in it, maybe through sports,” Stokes said.
Each time he slips on his sneakers this season, he intends to convey that the Pioneers’ days as also-rans are over and that a new period of prestige is set to commence.
“I think this can be a special year for us,” Stokes, who is 256 points away from hitting the 1,000-point mark, said. “I know I’m excited to bring excitement to our supporters. I want to make GAMP a baseball school and a basketball school. We can do this.”
Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org or ext. 124.
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