Summer Spotlight: Isaiah Thomas
By Kevin Duffy
Upon first glance, South Kent Prep PG Isaiah Thomas (no relation to the Hall of Fame Piston's guard and current New York Knicks GM/coach) doesn't look the part of a star high school basketball player. The baby-faced floor general stands a diminutive 5'8'' and in an era where the average college point guard is about 6'2'', Thomas appears too small to succeed at the next level. When the ball goes up and the game starts, all of those preconceived notions are thrown out of the window. Thomas plays at a different speed than everyone else and seemingly coasts his way by defenders. Once he gets in the lane, he uses great strength, body control, and creativity to finish.
While opponents must respect his quickness, they cannot give him much room because Thomas is a prolific three-point shooter. A native of Tacoma, WA, Thomas was named the Seattle Times 4A State Player of the Year two seasons ago when he averaged 31.6 points per game for Curtis HS. In an effort to help improve grades and maturity, he transferred to South Kent Prep (CT), a program that has produced dozens of college players and two pros- Dorrell Wright and Andray Blatche- over the last few years.
After serving as the starting point guard for one of the best prep teams in the nation last season, Thomas will return for the 2007-2008 season for a year of post-grad before he heads off the University of Washington in the fall of 2008. Though he already committed to a college, Thomas is still hard at work in the summer so he can take his game to another level. Here's what his typical summer day looks like:
7:30 AM- Wake Up
Right now I'm home for the summer in Washington, so when I wake up my mom will usually cook me up some waffles, bacon and eggs for breakfast.
8 AM- Drills
By 8 AM, I'm on the court doing various ball handling and shooting drills. I like to start out with some dribbling exercises that I learned from Steve Nash at his point guard camp. He taught me to take one ball in each hand and pound them into the ground as hard as possible at different tempos while maintaining control. I've used this drill in my training and it has proved to be a very effective way to improve my ball handling. After that, I'll just try to get up some shots before I leave and head back home to relax.
12 PM- Weight Room
During the summer I'm lifting four days a week. On Monday and Thursday, I perform upper body workouts and on Tuesday and Friday I focus on my lower body. The main focus of my training in the weight room is to become more solid so I can absorb contact and still make plays when I go to the basket. After my workout, I usually grab a sandwich and chips for lunch.
4 PM- Open Gym
On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I head up to the University of Washington to play some pick-up ball. The competition up there is unbelievable. I play with a lot of the current Washington players that are on campus and a bunch of pros that live in the area. Nate Robinson, Brandon Roy, Rashard Lewis, and Martell Webster are some of the regulars that come down and play. Competing against these guys makes me a lot better as an individual and when I play with them, I have the opportunity to pick their brains and learn some things that will help me succeed in college.
6 PM- Running
I go up to Seattle three days a week and do some cardio training under the supervision of strength and conditioning coaches. While I want to improve my cardiovascular strength so I can play the whole game, the main focus of my running is to improve my quickness and lateral movement. I want to take my defense to another level and really become a shutdown defender on the perimeter.
9 PM- Dinner
My running usually takes a little over an hour and after that I head home, relax for a little, and eat whatever my mom has cooked up for me.
I'm very excited to be going to the University of Washington to play for Coach Romar. I've always wanted to be a Husky ever since high school and I'm glad that soon I'll be wearing a Washington uniform. The proximity to my home played a role in choosing Washington, but my relationship with the coaching staff and players, along with the school's reputation of academic and athletic achievement really put it over the top for me. My relationship with Matthew Bryan-Amaning (former South Kent star who is headed to Washington this fall) also made a big difference. When I got to South Kent, Matt had already been there for two years and he had to go through the same stuff that I did in terms of being far away from home. At first, I was very homesick and Matt really took me under his wing. With him committed to Washington, we had a lot in common and it was important for us to develop a strong rapport with each other in the year that we played together.
Overall, I'm glad that I decided to attend South Kent. I feel it has helped me a lot and really prepared me for college. South Kent is a very rural campus, so there aren't many distractions. You do your schoolwork and then you play basketball- and that's pretty much it. Prep school forces you to become focused and it also gives you a chance to play against the top competition in the country.
South Kent Season Outlook: Prep teams such as South Kent usually do not return many players because most only go for one year of post-grad, but this year the Cardinals are fortunate enough to have three starters back in the lineup. Along with Thomas, the team returns 6'1'' combo guard Mark Lyons, who has committed to Xavier, and 6'9'' F/C Christian Morris, a Rutgers signee. 6'9'' South Korean SF Jin Soo Kim is receiving high-major attention as well and figures to play a significant role for SKS this season. The Cardinals will have to rebound from the losses of Bryan-Amaning (Washington), C Papa Dia (SMU), Ayodele Coker (St. Johns), and Manuel Cass (Texas El-Paso), and Calvin Haynes (Oregon State), but should be among the nation's top prep teams once again.