You know the name, of course. First, to address the obvious question: Washington freshman point guard Isaiah Thomas is not related to former NBA star Isiah Thomas (note the different spellings). But there is a direct connection: The younger Thomas was named after the older one when James Thomas lost a bet in 1989. The younger Thomas’ dad wagered with a friend on the outcome of the NBA Finals series between the Lakers and Pistons, but instead of money, he put the first name of his yet-to-be-born son on the line. The Pistons won, and a few months later Isaiah was born (mom signed off because of its Biblical roots).
The 5-foot-8 Thomas has lived up to his name pretty well. He leads the Huskies (25-8) in scoring (15.4 ppg) and was named the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. Can Mississippi State (23-12) handle him today in the first round of the NCAA tournament (3:45 p.m., CBS)? That’ll depend largely on the play of MSU’s own freshman point guard, Dee Bost. The two have faced off before, in prep school last year. Bost was a shooting guard at the time but matched up with Thomas a little; Bost outscored him 21-18, and his Hargrave Military Academy team beat Thomas’ South Kent (Conn.) School.
“He’s a much more of scoring point guard. I’m probably more of a scoring, and a pass(ing guard),” Bost said. Thomas does have that score-first mentality, a mentality Bost has as well but has managed to subdue to a healthy degree. Thomas is quick and knows how to finish, so it’s understandable that he wants to light it up. Size has been no object, of course. When I talked with Thomas, he was sitting in his locker, with room to spare. He remembers Bost well, but said, “I’m just going into the game like any other game. I’m not going to really key on him, I’m just going to key on trying to get this win.”
Honestly, I’m psyched to watch how this point guard matchup unfolds. As well as the matchup with big men Jarvis Varnado, a two-time SEC Defensive Player of the Year, and Jon Brockman, a two-time All-Pac-10 first-teamer. Those two were included in today’s notebook.
But back to Bost and Thomas for a moment. Bost has been hard to rattle, leading State to wins at places like Bud Walton Arena, Rupp Arena and, of course, St. Pete Times Forum in the SEC Tournament. Thomas’ foray onto the “big stage,” as he calls it, hasn’t gone so well. In two games of the Pac-10 Tournament at Staples Center, he scored 31 total points but shot just 11 of 29 from the field with one assist and four turnovers.
Here’s a quick statistical comparison of Bost and Thomas:
• Bost: 11.1 ppg, 36.0% field goals, 34.2% 3-pointers, 3.6 rpg, 4.3 apg, 1.52 assist/turnover ratio
• Thomas: 15.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 42.5% field goals, 29.8% 3-pointers, 2.5 apg, –0.95 assist/turnover ratio