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VOL. 129 | NO. 73 | Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Thomas Relishes Homecoming in NBA Uniform

By Don Wade

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With less than eight minutes left in a game his team was clearly going to lose, No. 7 came onto the court to audible cheers and applause.

Former University of Memphis forward Adonis Thomas is trying to find his place in the NBA.

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

Welcome back, Adonis Thomas, Philadelphia 76er (at least for now).

“It was a dream come true just to wear an NBA jersey in Memphis,” Thomas said after hitting two jumpers and scoring four points in the 76ers’ 117-95 loss to the Grizzlies Friday, April 11, at FedExForum, where, for two seasons, Thomas wore the blue and gray of the Memphis Tigers.

“This is a basketball city,” he said. “With me playing my entire basketball career here, they just want to see you succeed at the end of the day. There were a lot of supporters here tonight. I’m just thankful to be able to come back home and play.”

Thomas (Melrose High School) left the U of M after his sophomore season and probably would have declared for the NBA draft after his freshman season if he hadn’t suffered an ankle injury. Thomas went undrafted – which wasn’t a surprise – and it put some immediate, and difficult, decisions in front of him.

Now on his third 10-day NBA contract – he had two with Orlando – Thomas appears to have made the most of his situation.

“This year was excellent,” said Thomas, who was an All-Star in the NBA Development League. “Me not being drafted, it couldn’t be no way better. Even from just playing D-League. Overseas was an option, but I think this was the best option for me.”

At 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds, Thomas is a good 10 pounds lighter than his Tiger days. Both Orlando and Philadelphia have pegged him as a 2-3 player. Thomas says he would like to be closer to 220 by the start of next season. He considers this not only an audition for the 76ers, but every other team in the league.

“Every team’s seeing Orlando likes him, Philly likes him, and also he had a great rookie season in D-League,” Thomas said. “Whoever calls, I’m there.”

As he talked about life as a pro, he often mentioned the importance of the details, adding, “You got to be way more alert. Things happen quick. Asking questions (is important). They know I’m a new guy. So they take their time with me. You just want to listen and be ready when your name’s called.”

Put that statement next to this one from Thomas in the midst of his sophomore season after the Tigers had lost to Louisville and he had scored four points with four rebounds and failed to reach the free-throw line in 33 minutes: “I was in and out of plays. I wasn’t there every possession.”

More than a year later, Thomas seems to be more of a willing grinder, more closely resembling his Twitter handle of @AllDayThomas. Asked about the four senior Memphis guards who all have NBA dreams – Joe Jackson, Chris Crawford, Geron Johnson and Michael Dixon – Thomas offered this advice: “Compete, work hard, don’t take days off.” He added, “If they would have went deep in the tournament, it probably would have helped those guys with the draft.”

But Thomas is living proof that the lack of a deep tournament run and not getting drafted can be overcome. He says he never doubted.

“I wasn’t in any rush for money,” he said of why he didn’t go overseas. “I feel I’m an NBA guy. So I wanted to get here. I want to stay here.”

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