Thomas Stands Tall Among The Crowd
by Maiah Hollander
There is a four-foot difference between Isaiah Thomas' head and the rim of the basketball hoop on the court, but this hasn't stopped him from towering over others when it comes to leading his team.
"Growing up it was tough," said the five-foot-nine Thomas when asked about his height. "But when I'm out there, I feel like I'm as tall as everyone else out there."
Hailing from Tacoma, Wash., Thomas has had a ball in his hands as long as he can remember. What started out as a childhood activity, it became a serious pursuit as Thomas grew.
"I actually liked football better when I was growing up," said Thomas. "But at the end of the day, I felt I needed to pursue basketball more, and that's what I did."
Thomas had the passion for the game, but a good family friend had the know-how. The father of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks Jason Terry coached Thomas from the third to the eighth grade, allowing both Thomas' and Terry's families to become close friends. The friendship gave Thomas invaluable experience and an impressive coaching staff through the years. As time went on, and Terry went on to play for the University of Arizona, that connection garnered even more basketball insight through the friendship between Terry and NBA star Damon Stoudemire.
"Jason Terry was like a big brother to me," said Thomas. "He's the one who introduced me to Damon because he was a big brother to him."
Terry has helped Thomas with several aspects of the game. Most recently, he's helped Thomas focus on consistent shots, shooting the same shots over and over again, while Stoudemire now gives tips to better his game after watching him play on TV.
In fact, Thomas patterned his game after Stoudemire due to their similarities, both being small left-handed guards that played in the Pac-10. Both Terry and Stoudemire have supported Thomas by not only improving his play, but his mentality towards the game as well.
"The main thing is doing the things you can control," Thomas said. "And that's playing hard and playing defense, little turnovers and things like that. Because no matter what, it's not like I'm trying to miss shots. You can't control always making shots. They just say go out there play hard and have fun and play to win."
Halfway through his high school career, Thomas crossed the country to attend South Kent School in Connecticut for two years. After graduating, Thomas returned to his roots where the University of Washington was only too happy to take him in.
College level basketball was an intimidating obstacle to overcome for Thomas, starting with his first college game against Cleveland State.
"It's a lot faster than high school," he said. "It was crazy, going up to that game. I was like 'Man, when is this game going to start?'"
Luckily for the UW basketball coaching staff, Thomas didn't let the size of the school or the speed of play daunt him.
As a freshman, Thomas averaged an astonishing 15.5 points a game, and was named the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. Again and again Thomas delivered for UW, carrying his impressive statistics into his sophomore year.
"He has the capabilities if we just let him go, to score more than he does" said head coach Lorenzo Romar. "But because he is such a winner, he's able to get other things done."
As a sophomore, he led the team with 16.0 points per game, shot 93.3 percent from the free throw line and nabbed 3.0 rebounds per game to earn Pac-10 Tournament Most Outstanding Player honor.
"When I got here, we started winning and that's just the biggest part," said Thomas. "That's what you want to do most is win, that's what makes the season more fun."
Now a junior, Thomas has averaged 16.5 points per game this year, and 16.3 points per game in his three-year career. His scoring and outside range has often overshadowed his playmaking skills, where he averages 5.8 assists per game.
"Sometimes people just want to write him off as someone who just wants to shoot the ball all the time." said Romar. "That couldn't be farther from the truth."
Romar claims Thomas has gone above and beyond mere personal accomplishments, and has truly been a pillar of power for the team.
"I don't think there's any coincidence that in [his first two years], we've won 52 games, he's helped lead us to a Pac-10 Championship, a Pac-10 Tournament Championship, and a Sweet 16 berth," said Romar. "Somehow he's been in the midst of those things, while still being the leading scorer in our history's program over a two-year period, that's saying a lot."