Pac-12 tourney a Las Vegas reunion for Centennial grad Sam Thomas
Sam Thomas — a Centennial graduate and the 2016-17 state Gatorade Girls Basketball Player of the Year — is averaging 9.5 points and 3.7 rebounds in 34.1 minutes per game for Arizona.
Updated March 6, 2019 - 3:56 pm
Centennial basketball standouts Jade and Shane Thomas have yet to attend a University of Arizona game and watch their older sister Sam play.
“They’re playing (during the season) … so they don’t get to go (see) her, except when it’s on TV,” said their father, Derek. “To get to see her in person, that’s special.”
All the more special at the Pac-12 women’s tournament.
Thomas — a Centennial graduate and the 2016-17 state Gatorade Girls Basketball Player of the Year — is averaging 9.5 points and 3.7 rebounds in 34.1 minutes per game for Arizona, which plays Southern California on Thursday at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
The versatile, 6-foot forward returned to Las Vegas on Tuesday and joined her teammates for dinner at her family’s house.
Safe to say she’s excited to be home.
More excited, though, to play before her family.
“It was crazy leaving (my siblings) tickets under their name because I was like ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve never done this before’,” she said. “Everyone’s telling me ‘We’re so excited. You’re representing Vegas.’”
Thomas and her three siblings, Bailey, Jade and Shane, grew up playing basketball under the direction of their dad, who coached at 10 universities over 25 years — including UNLV from 2001 to 2003 — and coaches locally with the Las Vegas Knicks.
They all excel in their own right. Bailey is a sophomore forward at UNLV, Jade is a Lady Rebels recruit and Shane is the only freshman on Centennial’s varsity boys team. Sam, too, “always, for some reason, stood out,” Derek Thomas said.
“She was always younger but played with older kids. She was one of these happy go lucky kids that enjoyed playing,” he added. “But when it got to winning, that’s one thing where Sam doesn’t play. She doesn’t like to lose. That’s kind of been her thing.”
Thomas won four state championships with four nationally-ranked teams during her high school career before departing as a top 100 recruit for a rebuilding Arizona program under coach Adia Barnes.
The Wildcats were 6-24 last season, but Thomas thrived as an all-league freshman averaging 10.2 points and 7.2 rebounds. They finished the 2018-19 regular season with a 17-12 record, and the coach lauded Thomas’ defense, consistency and her role in their improvement.
“I know what I’m getting from Sam every single game, and that never changes … I love coaching her and I love having her in this program,” Barnes said. “She took a chance on us and that’s special to me. We weren’t a great team back then and she believed in the vision … I love that she’s a part of us and she’s going to leave her legacy. And it’s going to be big.”
Contact reporter Sam Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.
Pac-12 Women’s Tournament
*No. 5 Arizona State vs. No. 12 Colorado, 11:30 a.m.
*No. 8 Arizona vs. No. 9 USC, 2 p.m.
*No. 7 California vs. No. 10 Washington State 6 p.m.
*No. 6 Utah vs. No. 11Washington 8:30 p.m.
*Arizona State or Colorado vs. No. 4 UCLA, 11:30 a.m.
*Arizona or USC vs. No. 1 Oregon, 2 p.m.
*California or Washington State vs. No. 2 Stanford 6 p.m.
*Utah or Washington vs. No. 3 Oregon State, 8:30 p.m.
*Semifinal, 6 p.m.
*Semifinal 8:30 p.m.
*Championship game, 5 p.m.