Hoops recruit shows off in visit

By Roman Veytsman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, September 19, 2005

Lance Thomas, a highly sought-after recruit for the Wildcat men’s basketball team in 2006, visited the Arizona campus over the weekend in his first official visit.

Among his activities, Thomas ate lunch at Frog & Firkin on University Boulevard, met with professors and played pickup basketball Saturday with the current team.

“It’s beautiful, it’s really beautiful,” he said of the campus. “The weather is beautiful, the school is great, the basketball is great, and I got a liking to most of the professors that I met.”

Thomas, who goes to St. Benedict’s High School in New Jersey, spent his time hanging out with the guys on the team and meeting important people with the school.

He was introduced to the entire coaching staff and got to know Arizona head coach Lute Olson and his family a little better.

Thomas watched the Wildcats practice at McKale Center on Friday, but it appeared that he was itching to play. On Saturday, he got that chance in a team scrimmage.

Thomas never looked tentative on the court but seemed to increase his comfort level with every possession. He started off guarding freshman forward Marcus Williams but also switched to first-year power forward Fendi Onobun and smaller guards at times.

His first bucket came on a dunk off of a pass from Mustafa Shakur. He showed his versatility by handling the ball, facing the basket and also playing with his back to the basket. He stayed around the offensive glass, putting in points off of rebounds with regularity.

The biggest play of the day came when he took off from the left side of the basket and threw down a monstrous dunk over Kirk Walters, which brought all the guys sitting on the sidelines to their feet.

“I didn’t even see him,” Thomas said. “I was just going up to dunk, and then I really saw him so I just put it up and got it over his head.”

Other highlights from his game included a fluid-looking jump shot, which he occasionally banked in off the backboard.

He proved to be a good passer, at one point throwing a no-look pass to Onobun for a wide-open layup, and showed his quickness beating junior forward Ivan Radenovic off the dribble for a basket.

Thomas was vocal, too, talking on defense and interacting with the Arizona players.

After the scrimmage, Thomas came away impressed with the level of play.

“Playing with potential pros, guys that are trained at the highest level through coach Olson, it’s just great to have the opportunity to play against guys of that caliber,” he said. “I’m just really thankful for the opportunity.”

Thomas has already made unofficial visits to Duke, Rutgers and Villanova. He is expected to visit Duke again, among other schools.