With Rick Barnes desperately looking to strengthen his frontcourt next season, the Longhorns received good news Thursday morning when Creedmoor (NC) Christian Faith Academy forward Kevin Thomas committed to Texas.
Thomas played for Ro Russell at Christian Faith and If the name sounds familiar, it's because Russell also coaches Grassroots Canada, the AAU basketball that currently features star point guard and 2011 Texas commit Myck Kabongo and also featured Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson. That's right -- Thomas adds yet another Canadian star to the Texas roster, hailing from Thompson's home town of Brampton, Ontario.
A 6-8, 200-pound lefty, Thomas joins four other players in the class or 2011 for Texas. Kabongo, Sheldon McClellan, Julien Lewis, and Jonathan Holmes all signed their letters of intent last fall. As mentioned above, Thomas is a major get for the Longhorns due to the lack of frontcourt depth next season, with only Alexis Wangmene and Clint Chapman scheduled to come back. Tristan Thompson may opt to declare for the draft.
Here's a scouting report on Thomas from GoHornsGo90:
Thomas is a pretty impressive offensive recruit on film. He possesses a silky sweet lefty jumper that he can dial up from beyond three-point range with relative ease and is a good shot maker from all over the court. Good quickness on his shot release with a high release point. Kevin also displays very solid, high-level handle, especially for a 6'8" guy at his age, which should allow him to be an extremely effective point forward as a facilitator of the offense. A plus jumpshot and a plus handle combine to give him a great all around offensive game.
In the post, Thomas has absolutely incredible footwork and really understands how to make optimal use of his pivot to manipulate his way into layups from a seemingly well-guarded situation. Can finish with either hand with ease, reminiscent of Doge Balbay, making me question whether he is ambidextrous or just has really incredible finishing skills for his age. With added emphasis on his interior game, his touch and footwork around the rim should allow him to develop a bevy of post moves such as a turnaround jumper and a nice up and under move.
Kevin is an freak athlete that can jump out of the gym and is a highlight waiting to happen in fast break situations on alley-oops or breakaways. His athleticism makes him an elite shot blocker in off-ball situations defensively.
One of Thomas' greatest strengths is his versatility in being able to play 2-4 at the college level both offensively and defensively, as his quickness and athleticism will allow him to hold guards and his strong physique will allow him to guard most forwards. Will be rare for a collegiate team to have one player that can adequately contain him both on the perimeter and in the post, so expect Barnes to use him very similarly to the way he uses Jordan Hamilton (assuming Thomas commits to UT).
Thomas needs to progress as an on-ball defender and stay consistently focused on shutting down his man. He also needs to continue to put on weight, as he is still relatively skinny despite being chiseled. Obviously Todd Wright would be a huge boon for the kid. Also would like to see him make a bigger impact in the rebounding game, something Barnes has stressed (successfully) to Jordan Hamilton this year.
Offensively, like many talented, young forwards, Thomas has been known to drift to the perimeter instead of using his height to pick up easy buckets in the post. Getting a few quick buckets inside can do wonders for your jump shot, which is why coaches and analysts always advise working inside to outside with your offensive progression throughout a game. Start off inside with an easy layup or two, then when your confidence is sky high you can start raining threes on your opponent. Once they start to overcompensate for your shot, give them the 'ol Bob Knight pump fake and throw one down for SportsCenter.
It's odd that Thomas isn't ranked in the Rivals Top 100 in the 2011 class, and, frankly, it's something of a crime because the latest Texas commit has all the physical tools to be a strong contributor at the next level. Regardless, Thomas is a major pick-up for the Longhorns at a need position.
God bless Canada.