Could junior J.T. Thomas be this year’s version of Leroy Isler for UALR?
Early indications are yes.
When UALR snagged Leroy Isler last summer, it was late in the recruiting game. Isler proved more than solid as a junior becoming both a defensive stopper and a competent offensive player.
In the same way, UALR snagged Thomas this year.
UALR had a scholarship to give after the departure of John Gillon to Colorado State. Coach Steve Shields had already signed one point guard in juco transfer Devonte Smith (which led to Gillon leaving). Knowing he could use sophomore Josh Hagins at both point and shooting guard, UALR signed Thomas.
I’ll admit it. When they signed Thomas I wasn’t sure. His numbers weren’t out of this world at Chipola JC where he averaged 4.8 points, 1.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists. That was two seasons ago. He didn’t play last year.
But Thomas’ story goes much, much deeper. He was a highly recruited high school player out of New Orleans. He went to Toledo in 2010 but was injured most of the year as he averaged 4.5 points.
He wasn’t in basketball shape yet when UALR traveled to Calgary, Canada, to play three exhibition games this summer. Again, his numbers won’t blow you away. Thomas played a team-high 72 minutes, averaging 4.7 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.7 assists.
But it’s Thomas’ role in non-statistical aspects of the game that makes things work. And as the three games in Canada took place, it became more and more apparent that Thomas was a guy the UALR coaching staff had to have on the floor.
“He’s a complete team-first guy,” Shields said of Thomas. “Those guys are hard to find.”
And much like Isler, UALR appears to have found a late gem.