It isn't a breaking story to say that last year the team struggled on the offensive end. Shooting was less than impressive and the Bearcats had a lot of difficulty creating good looks. But every once in a while, if you were really paying attention, something different would happen. Shaquille Thomas would get the ball, make a simple move, and easily dunk on his defender. Or he would jab step his man on his heels and sink a smooth 15-footer. Don't remember? Here's a quick refresher...
Events such as these happened maybe once a game, but they happened. You would think to yourself, "man, that looked easy. Let's do that again". Then Thomas would get the ball back and casually pass the ball to whoever was open.
To say Thomas was underutilized is an understatement. The Shaquille Thomas situation was the second most perplexing part of last season (With first place going to the Napier over SK MVP award). Seriously... Why didn't Thomas average double-digits a game?
Unfortunately, I have no answer to this question. Thomas is a really really nice guy. Maybe he just feels bad taking shots from his teammates?
Name: Shaquille Thomas
Weight: 205 lbs
Hometown: Paterson, NJ
Jersey Number: 3
Thomas has the physical skills to dominate other Small Forwards in the AAC. Just look at his gene pool. He is more athletic than most, and taller than the rest. A lot of People are expecting great things from Thomas this year, and I am one of those people.
So what can we expect this year?
We've been waiting for Thomas to breakout, and I think this is the year. Though I expect a bigger change from last year to this year from Kevin Johnson, I see Thomas as the guy at the top of the opposing team's game plan every week. I hope Thomas is putting on a couple of pounds and adding some arc to his shot. His success on the court this year does depend on a couple of ifs:
#1: If Thomas stops thinking...
#2: If Thomas goes 100% the entire time he is on the court...
#3: If Thomas accepts scoring as his responsibility...
#4: If Thomas can settle his nerves...
...then he will likely be one of the most feared players in the AAC.
If not, then he will be what he was last year - A solid contributor for a handful of points every game. Hopefully, Thomas can alleviate most of these "ifs" early and often. That will enable the new guys time to figure out how to gel around him.
The Bahamas was promising for Thomas. I know he only had three points. I know he shot just over 11% from the field. I know his effectiveness rating was -3 (the worst on the team). But Thomas took nine shots in just eleven minutes, second most on the team and second most of his career (Thomas took 10 shots against Houston last year, but his minutes were over 2.5 times what they were in the Bahamas). In fact, last year Thomas averaged just 5.8 shots per game in almost 23 minutes per game. He's shooting every four minutes he's in the game?
So, why am I happy about the Bahamas? It seems that he may be thinking less and is finally accepting his responsibility to put points on the board for the Bearcats. Though one game is a very small sample, I hope it is a sign of things to come.
-Daniele "Da" Bologna