Countdown to 2015–16: Jahad Thomas brings toughness (x3!) to UMass Lowell

Photo courtesy of UMass Lowell Athletics.

How best to describe Jahad Thomas, UMass Lowell’s redshirt freshman sensation from a season ago?

His head coach comes up with a short list: “Toughness — first, second, and third,” says Pat Duquette, who’s entering his third season at the helm of the RiverHawks. “You just don’t meet many players who play that hard, that consistently.”

This summer, Thomas couldn’t practice as he rehabbed an anterior cruciate ligament tear suffered during a game last March. (He missed the 2013–14 season after tearing the ACL in his other knee.) So, he poured himself into working on his jumper, which he says needed an overhaul.

“I couldn’t do much besides (shoot),” Thomas says. “I’ve been (at UMass Lowell) the whole summer, and I’ve been doing that every day. It’s improved tremendously. I feel a lot more confident.”

Thomas worked closely with RiverHawks assistant Louis Hinnant, tinkering with mechanics and then taking it to the court, where he could do stand-alone shooting. He also watched clips of some of the NBA’s top shooters, and saw how consistency reigns with their respective release. “I’m trying to shoot the same shot every time,” Thomas says. “Even when they don’t fall now, I feel confident in the consistency.”

Says Duquette, “That’s a silver lining that comes out of this injury. Jahad is so competitive, and so anxious to improve each day, that he ended up shooting a ton of shots. He’s really going to improve it this season.”

Thomas. Courtesy of UMass Lowell Athletics.

Consistent production was certainly a theme of Thomas’s debut season, when he led the team in points (14.3), rebounds (6.5) and field goal percentage (.526).

He was named the America East Freshman of the Week three times in a row in November — “It was a shock to me. I didn’t expect none of that,” Thomas says — and displayed a well-versed skill set that has become a calling card in Duquette’s program. Simply put, the 6–2 swingman can score from anywhere on the court.

“That’s always been something we value as a staff,” says Duquette. “We love versatile guys that can play different positions. We don’t get too caught up in size or what they look like — we just put the five best players on the court. Jahad exemplifies that. Nobody knows how to explain his game, or why he’s so effective. He’s just a competitor.”

Duquette has said that this is the deepest and most talented team he’s had at Lowell. Getting Thomas back to his best will be crucial to making those pistons fire. The medical staff haven’t set a return date to full action, but Duquette expects to have his star sophomore back some time before the start of ‘15–16.

Then, one of those special attributes will be unleashed. Says Duquette, “Jahad is going to adapt and change as this team grows and develops. He doesn’t mind playing different roles. He just wants to win. He has such high expectations of himself, but it’s always within a team framework.”

Game of life, with a twist—and shout. Twitter: @alleywhoops

Game of life, with a twist—and shout. Twitter: @alleywhoops