UTEP Basketball Inks Big-Time Junior College Shooter
Nov. 20, 2012
Jacob Thomas, a high-scoring junior college guard, has signed a national letter of intent to play basketball at UTEP. The 6-4 Thomas becomes the fourth member of coach Tim Floyd's 2013 recruiting class.
Thomas will have two years of eligibility with the Miners starting with the 2013-14 season. He is currently a sophomore at Howard College in Big Spring, Texas, the third-ranked JC squad in the country. He averaged 14.9 points, 1.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.4 steals as a freshman, shooting 48 percent from the field, 45 percent from three-point range and 85 percent from the line. He was one of three freshmen voted to the Western Junior College Athletic Conference All-League Team.
"Our teams at USC were noted for starting four guards in the 6-4 to 6-7 range who could all dribble, pass and shoot," Floyd said. "Jacob Thomas can flat out shoot the ball. We felt like he was the best shooter that we saw this summer.
"With the size we're going to have on the frontline next year, we feel like we've made ourselves much harder to guard with the addition of guys like Isaac Hamilton, Andre Spight, Jacob Thomas and Jake Flaggert. We've added additional skill on the perimeter that will create spacing for our big guys [John Bohannon, Cedrick Lang, Hooper Vint, Chris Washburn, Matt Willms] to operate out of. Jacob's talent is such that we've departed from what has been our plan in rebuilding this program to take a junior college player. We also feel like, in addition to being able to shoot it, he handles the ball well enough where he can give you minutes at point guard if needed."
Thomas is rated the no. 8 returning junior college player in the country (regardless of position) by Mike Mitchell's Midwest Scouting Service, and is currently listed as the top returning shooting guard in the JUCO ranks.
"The beauty of Jacob is he has the versatility to play both guard positions," Mitchell said. "He is the real deal as a three-point shooter, he has good size at 6-4 and he's on a team that really wins in the best junior college league in the country. The thing that's even more impressive is the league he's in has produced the junior college national champion five of the last eight years.
"Howard College is a half-court team. They're not going to score 100 points, where he's going to shoot eight, nine or 10 threes a game. He's going to get shots within the offense. He's one of the junior college players who can come in with a very short learning curve and step in to play [next year]."
Thomas prepped at Columbia Heights Senior High School in Columbia Heights, Minn. He was regarded as one of the nation's top high school players with a four-star rating and no. 89 placement on the ESPNU Top-100 list. He had a breakout sophomore season, averaging 21.8 ppg and 5.7 rpg to garner unanimous All-North Suburban Conference honors. He put 35 points on the board in the season opener versus Oh Day Aki, one of five 30-point performances on the year. Thomas hit 75 three-point shots as a sophomore.
He followed that up by collecting 22.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg and 1.5 spg with 92 triples and eight 30-point nights his junior year. Thomas closed out his high school career with averages of 27.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg and 2.0 spg, making 93 trifectas during the 2009-10 season. He topped 30 points on 10 occasions, including 47 versus Benilde-St. Margaret's High School. Over his last three high school campaigns, Thomas buried a whopping 260 three-point shots and averaged three makes per game last year at Howard College.
"He's a great shooter," said Mark Adams, Thomas' junior college coach. "He's a big guard who can play several positions. Currently we've got him playing point guard because our starter from last year broke his nose. Jake's got a great skill set. He's a good passer and ball handler, but what he does best is he's an exceptional shooter. I think he was the second-best three-point shooter in the conference last year behind Marshall Henderson, who was the National Player of the Year and went on to Ole Miss. He's someone Miner fans can get excited about, because he can really score.
"I certainly feel like his best basketball is ahead of him, and under coach Floyd he will really blossom into an exceptional Division I player. He is certainly a candidate for All-American and National Player of the Year [in 2012-13]. We have really high expectations for him."