March 1, 2015

Thomas chooses longtime suitor

Kevin McCarthy

It was a long term relationship that made the difference as Bishop O'Dowd's Isaiah Thomas recently committed to Coach Jack Murphy and Northern Arizona University (NAU).

photo of Isaiah Thomas

So why the Lumberjacks for Thomas? “The recruitment began around my sophomore year which was my best season,” Thomas explained. “They stayed with me, seeing me in my best and worst times. [On my visit] I liked the campus, the coaches were nice and the team was very respectful.”

By the way, Big Sky Conference-based NAU is located in northern Arizona with an elevation of just under 7,000 feet. Unlike Phoenix or Tucson, snow is not surprising during winter.

“At the beginning [of recruiting], I was willing to go anywhere. But as I got older, I wanted to stay kind of close to home and not go across the country.”

Northern Arizona recently beat league leader Eastern Washington 73-69. The Lumberjacks own a 15-12 overall record, 10-4 in conference. The current roster shows two returning centers for 2015-16, 7-foot-1 and 6-foot-7 juniors. The former is a little-used reserve and the latter an off-and-on starter so opportunity for playing time to be earned either in the middle or at the four will be available. NAU has also signed a 6-foot-8 prospect out of the Florida high school ranks.

The 6-foot-9 Thomas began high school at the Kipp King Academy in Hayward, transferring to Bishop O'Dowd for his junior year. He wasn't able to play that season but facing Ivan Rabb in practice was obviously a good challenge and he got back on the court with the Oakland Rebels that spring and summer.

What will Lumberjack fans see from Thomas next season? “I'll play hard with a lot of passion and bring energy to the court. I like getting rebounds and doing the small things. My best skill is running the floor, trying to be the first one down the court.” The NAU coaching staff sees a long-armed, athletic big with an impressive wingspan.

He's planning on majoring in kinesiology.

Thomas cites DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers as a player he tries to emulate—“he's quick on his feet and I try to base my game on his\”—and his best basketball moment to date is ”going to state, even though we lost.“ That was last year.

He's glad the process is over. “There was a lot of stress with recruiting. It's the pressure to play well every game, trying to impress.” Now it's a complete focus on the remainder of the Dragons season and indications are another trip to the state championship game could very well be in the offing.

Oh, about his first name, actually full name. It wasn't generated due to any sort of basketball history. “My Mom looked in The Bible, saw the name Isaiah and liked it.” Historically, Isaiah is a prophet venerated in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Thomas is hoping to add Flagstaff to the mix.