Some people just don’t get Isaiah Thomas.
They look at the Washington point guard and they see the salutes after baskets and the tattoos and think he’s just another punk. Heaven forbid these people should find his Twitter.
But these people don’t know what they’ve got with Thomas, and probably won’t until he’s gone. They see the fun that Thomas has on the court and act like it’s a negative, as if his swagger somehow meant he wasn’t playing hard.
Truth be told, Thomas has done as much for the UW program as any other basketball player. Ever.
When the team faltered after the initial success of the Lorenzo Romar era, it was Thomas — along with Quincy Pondexter and Jon Brockman — who led the team back to the NCAA tournament.
Thomas is a player who scored more points in his first two years than any other Husky, but this year his team needed a distributor more than a scorer, and now he’s leading the conference in assists. That’s not selfish; it’s the embodiment of unselfishness. It’s why when Thomas plays well, the rest of the team plays better.
“Coach has always been in my ear to make the right play and I got to do it,” Thomas said at the start of conference play. “I always say the guys feed off me, so if I’m highly aggressive, they’re highly aggressive.”
What fans don’t get about his on-court demeanor — that attitude, that “raise the roof” motion — is that it isn’t meant to demean his opponent, but to pump himself up (the same principle applies to forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning’s flexing after every dunk).
Standing at barely 5-foot-9, the ultra-talented Thomas joins Nate Robinson, Jamaal Williams and Brockman as a card-carrying member of the “UW Basketball Players Who Would Be Top-Five NBA Draft Picks If They Were Three Inches Taller” club.
Yet for some reason, Thomas has never been given the benefit of the doubt like those other players have. Perhaps because of the way he dominated at Curtis High School in University Place, Wash., it’s just expected that he’ll dominate. Sure, Husky fans for the most part love him, but they don’t really appreciate him, yet.
They don’t understand that Thomas bleeds purple and gold, and that he reps his school harder than anyone in the country. Just look at the way Thomas took on the entire Kentucky fan base via Twitter on behalf of Husky Nation this summer, right after the Terrence Jones saga.
It’s remarkable for a guy who left the state and went all the way to Connecticut to attend prep school to remain a Husky when it was all said and done.
For all their braggadocio on the court, Washington basketball players are a pretty thoughtful and soft-spoken bunch. It’s pretty safe to assume that if Thomas were half as bad as some people think, Romar wouldn’t have recruited him.
“He’s got a huge heart,” Romar told Percy Allen of The Seattle Times before the season. “He’s a winner. Isaiah wins. People don’t understand that about him. He finds a way to win.”
Because of that, Thomas will almost certainly end his career having delivered more wins — in an exciting manner — than any other Husky player.
So what if he’s got a little swag? Get over it.
Reach men’s basketball columnist Jacob Thorpe at email@example.com.
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