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Thomas finally debuts for Wildcats

By Joel Jellison

If the wait felt long for the Kansas State men’s basketball team, just ask Jevon Thomas how long it was for him.

Associated Press(Kansas State’s Jevon Thomas goes up for a shot against Tulane in the second half last Saturday in New York).

More than 10 months after Thomas made his decision to commit to K-State, the freshman finally made his debut on Saturday against Tulane, playing 20 minutes and scoring two points while dishing out four assists.

He’ll likely see more action on Tuesday when the Wildcats host George Washington at 2 p.m. inside Bramlage Coliseum. The game will be televised on Fox Sports Net.

Thomas was ineligible to play or practice with the Wildcats until Dec. 21, when K-State (9-3) played Gonzaga in Wichita. Thomas didn’t dress for the game, but watched from the bench for the first time all year.

“The last 10 months have been kind of rough,” he said. “I have had my ups and downs especially with the start of the season and seeing my teammates out playing games and not being able to be there. However, I just stuck with it. It’s been good in a way because it has given me time to think.

“The hardest part has just been watching the games. It’s hard to watch them and not be able to play. To see some of my closest friends out playing and not being able to help, especially the games we lost, has been tough. I’m glad it’s behind me now.”

Thomas, a 6-foot, 180-pound guard from Queens, N.Y., waited so long to play for the Wildcats that he said he didn’t even feel nervous prior to what would be his first game, played in front of friends and family in his hometown.

K-State coach Bruce Weber said after the Wildcats’ 72-41 win over Tulane that he hoped to play Thomas 10 minutes. The result of the game played into bonus minutes for the freshman.

Because he has been unable to practice with the team, he has been immediately put behind in terms of running the plays and getting a feel of his teammates on the court. That can be especially daunting for a point guard.

When he first arrived in Manhattan, Thomas said he would go to the Peters Recreation Center and play pick-up games with his teammates. He also lifted and worked out with friends.

During the summer, he traveled to Lithuania and played with Athletes in Action. When he returned to Manhattan, he said he got more serious.

“I would go to the Rec early in the morning when no one was there and work out,” he said. “I would have a student manager or another friend come rebound for me. I would also work on some drills that I got from some other trainers. It was a tough time because there was no one else there to push me, but I had to stick with it.”

But even though he couldn’t practice with the team, Thomas said he made sure to stick around them and soak up all he could.

Whether it was sticking around fellow freshmen like Marcus Foster, Wesley Iwundu and Nigel Johnson, or listening to veterans like Shane Southwell, Thomas said he learned all he could. And he expects it will soften his transition into the offense.

“I just stuck around the team, that’s why I don’t think my transition will be bad because I was around them all the time,” he said. “Off the court, I was always around the other freshmen, Marcus and Wesley, and I tried to spend time with Shane and the other seniors to find out what coach Weber wants and what he doesn’t want.

“It’s like I’m there but I’m not there because I get everything that the coaches are saying from my teammates.”

Thomas describes his game as pass-first on the offensive side, with aggressive, do-what-it-takes to win style on the defensive end. He also said he tries to control the tempo by making sure he and his teammates are having fun.

Even though he is anxious to get on to the court and contribute, the time away from the game has made him more patient. Thomas said he doesn’t know when he will be 100 percent in sync with the offense, but he will let Weber decide when he’s ready to increase his role.

“I feel I can be an impact on the game regardless of the amount of minutes I play,” he said. “I will give it some time, but I’m a quick learner. I know with the amount of time that I have spent with the guys, I know what the coaching staff wants and what they don’t want.”

The Wildcats are playing some of their best basketball right now, and Thomas said he’s enjoyed watching it. And he thinks they will just get better as the season moves forward.

“I like our team,” he said. “We are young but talented and defend well. I think we are only going to get better as the season goes on. We have all the pieces to be a really good team. Early on, we couldn’t get everything together.

“It took us awhile to understand our strengths and weaknesses, but now we are starting to gel. I feel it’s a lot like last year’s team.”

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