Jahad Thomas deserves Division I attention

Aquille Carr is a YouTube sensation. And nearly everyone at Wednesday’s Williamsport game had watched those highlights the past few days.

Then they watched Jahad Thomas outplay the Seton Hall-bound point guard. Carr is a sensational talent who can handle the ball like few scholastic players, shoot from anywhere and jump like a 7-footer.

But Wednesday, Thomas was the best player on the court.

Thomas put on a scintillating show, scoring 24 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, dealing four assists, making four steals and blocking two shots while leading Williamsport to a 73-59 win. This was Thomas at his best but really, it was just Thomas being Thomas. That begs the question, how is this player not receiving serious Division I interest?

Thomas has his pick of Division II schools, but Division I schools seem to be scared off by Thomas being 6-foot-2 and being a power forward. All those recruiters need to do is watch a replay of last night’s game to realize how wrong they are.

“I know what he can do and I hope the other colleges out there see what he can do,” Williamsport point guard Herb Stelly said. “They supposedly have Division I players on their entire roster so I don’t see how Jahad Thomas isn’t a D1 player when he puts on a performance like that.”

It was not just that Thomas played great, it was who he played great against and how he did it. The all-state senior was going against a front line that went 7-feet, 6-8 and 6-7. Watching them play, it seemed like the roles were reversed. Thomas was unstoppable at times inside and turned in his own series of highlight plays in the second quarter, scoring on a variety of moves while going up, under or around bigger defenders.

Whatever Thomas wanted to do, he did and Princeton Day never had an answer. Thomas hit 10 of his final 13 shots and took the game over whenever the Storm started rallying in the second half.

“He’s done that against a number of opponents now, but to go take over a game the way he did against a team the caliber of that says a lot about his ability and his skills,” Williamsport coach Allen Taylor said. “I would be surprised if these D1 teams sleep on a player like that. I just don’t understand how something like that can happen, but I think he’s going to get what he’s looking for.”

The Division I school that lands Thomas could reap big dividends. Thomas runs the court like a gazelle, reads a defense like a quarterback, has terrific vision and can dissect a defense as much with his passing as with his scoring. The four-year starter is strong enough to overpower opponents inside, but versatile enough to take his game outside and hit jumpers, something he did last night, burying a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter.

Oh yeah, he also played point guard at times and seemed like a natural there. Thomas is not a power forward. He simply is a basketball player. He can play anywhere and do anything.

“He did it all. He controlled the tempo of the game, he drove to the bucket, hit jump shots, passed to open guys, rebounded, played defense … he did everything,” Taylor said. “He managed the game like a point guard. He can be at the point, can post up inside, he can come off screens and shoot. He can do a little bit of everything.”

Where Thomas plays collegiately is undecided but he does not care at this moment. He is the consummate competitor and his only focus is the next game, Saturday against Wyoming Valley West. Thomas is a nice guy who is popular in school and in the community. Once the game starts, he takes on a different persona. He has a motor that does not stop and the only thing greater than this talent the past four years has been his will to improve and win.

That is a big reason Williamsport made a 14-win improvement last year and captured a district championship. That is a big reason the Millionaires are state title contenders this season.

The recruiters have been sleepwalking. Thomas gave them the ultimate wake-up call last night.

“I wasn’t worried about college at all. I’m just going out here and making a statement to everyone,” Thomas said. “If I’m not ranked or anything it doesn’t mean anything, just know it’s not going to be easy going against me or my team.”

Get the cameras ready.