Coach Karen Weitz rattled off the similarities between former Centennial girls basketball standouts Sam and Bailey Thomas and their sister, junior guard Jade Thomas.
All three practice and play with energy and passion. All three make the right play at the right time.
All three are Division I basketball players.
Jade announced in October her commitment to UNLV — where she will join Bailey, who transferred last year from West Virginia to play for the Rebels. Sam is a sophomore wing at Arizona, meaning all three of Derek and Julie Thomas’ daughters will be playing college basketball.
At the same time.
“It’s a humbling experience. I did not expect it,” said Derek, who coached at 10 universities over 25 years — including UNLV from 2001 to 2003 — and coaches locally with the Las Vegas Prospects. “My goal when I was coaching and they were running around the gym was to teach them about the game of basketball and hope one day they could be good enough to play high school basketball.”
Jade, who initially gravitated toward volleyball, recalled fond memories with her siblings when her father coached at Western Illinois.
She decided to try organized basketball in third grade, thereby committing to a full-time pursuit of her favorite sport.
“Ever since I was young, I was in the gym every night,” Jade said. “That’s what I looked forward to doing and watching.”
The Thomas family moved back to Las Vegas in 2015 with the girls enrolling at Centennial. Bailey graduated in 2016, Sam in 2017. Jade made the team’s rotation during her sophomore season, 2017-18.
She made the game-tying 3-pointer as time expired against Liberty in the Class 4A state championship game last February and has helped the Bulldogs go 14-1 this season.
“When she got here, she was always so quiet and clung to her sisters,” Centennial assistant coach Katie Lutman said. “What’s been nice is seeing her evolve out of being the baby and the little sister to being her own person, being a leader and being vocal.”
Jade Thomas began receiving recruiting letters from colleges during her freshman year and offers after her sophomore year. She was offered by UNLV last summer and committed shortly thereafter, ensuring she will play alongside Bailey in 2020-21.
“It’s fun knowing I’ll get one year to play with her,” said Jade, a skilled, versatile 5-foot-10-inch guard. “I talk to (my sisters) every day. I hear about their experiences in practice, all day every day.”
Jade hopes to win two more state championships before departing for UNLV. But the Thomas pipeline will continue at Centennial.
Younger brother Shane is a guard for the boys team and the first freshman to play varsity for the Bulldogs since Troy Brown, a first-round pick in the 2018 NBA draft.
“It’s interesting, you talk to (Centennial boys coach Noah) Hartsock, and he’ll tell you about all the little things Shane does — that’s a Thomas for you,” Weitz said. “They get on the floor, and they make a difference in the fact that they’ll do all the little things. … And that comes from a high IQ family that knows and understands the game.”