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Player review: Jake Thomas

Photo by A. Martina Ibanez-Baldor

Photo by A. Martina Ibanez-Baldor

What he did well: Jake Thomas arrived in Milwaukee two seasons ago with some high expectations. The 175 3-pointers his first two years at South Dakota intrigued many who believed the 6-foot-4 transfer could come in as a sharpshooter for the 3-point-deprived Golden Eagles when he became eligible. When Paint Touches spoke to Thomas in 2011, he said he was out to prove he was more than just a 3-point specialist, that he could do more to contribute.

Well, he sure got things going the right way by winning the dunk contest at Marquette Madness in a bit of an upset–a major upset, to be honest. And his redshirt junior year became a whole more important just days later when Todd Mayo was ruled academically ineligible. With starter Vander Blue and the ever-versatile Trent Lockett manning the shooting guard spots, Thomas averaged 16.1 minutes per game in Marquette’s first 10 games, including games of 9 and 12 points, respectively, off the bench.

He played in 13 of Marquette’s last 25 games, and while he didn’t contribute all that much in those contests, on the whole Thomas was at least a threat on the court. Yes, he shot 27.8 percent from beyond the arc (10-for-36) and went to the free-throw line eight times in 206 minutes. But the scouting report read 3-point shooter, and that meant something to Williams, who even deployed Thomas late in Marquette’s win over Davidson.

There’s not all that much to show on what Thomas did well–he averaged just 9.0 minutes per game–but he came through in a pinch while Mayo was suspended. The other option was freshman Jamal Ferguson, a sure drop in production should that have happened. That in itself is worth something.

One interesting note is that Thomas shot 7-of-19 (36.8%) from beyond the arc in the corners, while going just 3-of-17 (17.6%) from the wings and top of the key.

What he could have done better: Thomas didn’t do much outside of shooting 3-pointers, but he wasn’t expected to do much else. Still, it would have been nice to see some of that athleticism he showed off during Marquette Madness and have it translate to game-action. He made just three shots inside the arc all season (two layups and a jumper) and attempted the aforementioned eight free throws.

The biggest jump from South Dakota to Marquette was going to be on the defensive end, and it’s an area in which Thomas was constantly exploited. Per Synergy, Thomas allowed 0.912 points per possession, the second-worst mark on Marquette (Todd Mayo) and the 30th percentile overall in the country.

This won’t show up in any box scores, but for a player whose one job was to shoot from beyond the arc, too many times he either pump-faked or didn’t take an open look. We’d have to go back and see if Marquette had a paint touch before each of these occurrences, but on the whole Thomas either didn’t trust his shot enough or didn’t want to be putting up attempts. He was never the No. 1 option in the offense, but for a shooter who needed rhythm to be efficient he really didn’t take advantage of enough open looks.

Best performance: Apologies to Thomas’ near-game-winner against Butler in Maui and his crucial 4-point play in the first half against Syracuse, but Thomas’ best game came earlier in the year against UMBC. With Blue out with a knee injury–amazingly the only time a Marquette player missed a game to injury–Thomas played 21 minutes, scored a season-high 12 points, two 3-pointers and hauled in three rebounds.

Thomas made a 3-pointer, a runner and a 17-footer and dished out an assist during a 24-5 second-half that pushed Marquette from a one-point deficit to an 18-point lead. He was aggressive, active and showed sweet touch on his shots. He even went to the free-throw line three times, making two.

Worst performance: Another tough one for a player who averaged just 9.0 minutes per game and was a healthy scratch in 12 games, but Marquette’s loss to Wisconsin-Green Bay was not Thomas’ finest moment.

He made a 3-pointer early in the first half, but from there it was 11 other minutes of three misses and nothing else; all zeroes in the box score. The worst, however, came when Thomas became open on the left wing with 3 seconds left and Marquette down two, 49-47, missing a three that would have won the game.

He managed 10 minutes three days later against LSU, but Mayo returned that same afternoon and Trent Lockett’s and Vander Blue’s efficiency all but pushed Thomas out of the rotation after the GB debacle.

2013-14 outlook: In a move this author has never seen, Thomas requested and was given his release from Marquette, only to return to the team two weeks later, presumably after Vander Blue surprised the coaching staff and declared for the NBA draft.

It looks as though Thomas will keep a similar role to the one he had post-Mayo returning. He’ll be behind one of Todd Mayo/Jajuan Johnson in the starting lineup, and the other off the bench. It’s a good bet Thomas will improve on last year’s numbers–natural progressions says he will–but don’t expect anything drastic to happen defensively.

A best-case scenario is Thomas turns into a higher percentage 3-point shooter. Maybe it took him a year of high-major Division I basketball to shake the jitters, but he’ll undoubtedly be a more confident shooter in his senior season. He isn’t going to light the world on fire in any other category, but if he can improve his defensive statistics and move his 3-point percentage to 32-to-33 percent, this will have been a solid move for him to return to Milwaukee.

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Categories: 2012-13 Review, Analysis, Home, Offseason, Player Review

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