Caught up with UW star Isaiah Thomas last week who couldn’t hide his enthusiasm for this year’s team. Thomas is talking Final Four, which would be a first since 1953. **Corrected 11:18 am**
Another lengthy interview, but some interesting insights about Thomas playing with freshman standout Abdul Gaddy and playing a more conventional shooting guard role this season.
(Tell me about this team.) “Our team we’re looking real good. I think we’ll be even better than last year. Some people just say they want to win the national championship and they want to get to the Final Four, but we’re saying it and we really feel like we can do that with the talent we got and the group of guys we got. We’ve been working since the spring. We’re going to be good and I just can’t wait to get out there Nov. 4.”
(What did you work on this summer?) “I really worked on everything I just worked on overall shooting, passing and getting stronger in the weight room with my legs and my upper body. Just everything. I didn’t really focus on one thing. I got a lot of shots up this summer so my jumper will be a lot better.”
(Did you gain any weight this summer?) “Not really. I gained about five pounds. Nothing too serious. I already feel like I’m strong enough and I think I’m big enough to go out there and play. It was just matter of getting a little stronger.”
(What did you learn from your first year?) “Probably to be more patient. That’s on the basketball court. Be more patient as a guard and just making the right plays. Making reads and being a better point guard.”
(Your thoughts on the new guys.) “They’re looking great. C.J. (Wilcox) he’s the best shooter on the team by far. I swear. This whole summer, every shot he’s made has been all net. That’s how I look at it. You can’t give him no room. He’s the best shooter. Abdul (Gaddy) he’s as advertised. He’s what you what you want in a point guard. He’s what you want in somebody who’s leading the team on the court. I’ve always known what he can do. That’s like a little brother to me. Nothing surprises me. A guy like Clarence Trent, he’s going to play no matter what. You don’t know what position he’s going to play, but everywhere he works so hard that you got to put him out there.”
(How long have you known Abdul?) “Probably since fourth or fifth grade. We came up in the same program. I always older and he was on the younger team, but he’s always been like a little brother to me. We always worked out together, always played together.”
(So playing with him at Washington is nothing new?) “That’s really nothing for us. It might be something new to everybody else and our teammates, but we know what each other is going to do. We just can’t wait until the season starts to show people how we can play together.”
(Do you see your role changing from last year now that Abdul is here?) “Not really. I’ve talked to (coach Lorenzo) Romar a couple of times. It’s not going to be any different than it was last year. Probably a little bit more scoring, but nothing really too much different. I’m going to have the ball in my hands a lot of the times. Gaddy is going to have the ball in his hands and Venoy is going to have the ball. We’re going to be switching on and off, nothing is really going to change.”
(Can you play off the ball?) “It will be something new being off the ball. I’m always willing to learn something new. Nate (Robinson) played in this program and he was off the ball a lot even though he was a point guard. I know I can do it. It’s not like the ball is going to be completely out of my hands even though I may not be bringing it up. It’s going to be something new. I’ve been working on it all summer, letting (Gaddy) bring the ball up and letting Venoy (Overton) bring the ball up. and I come off screens and come off the wing. It’s going to be fun though.”
(What are you expecting this season?) “Last year it was us sneaking up on everybody else now we know coming into games and coming into the season, we’re going to have a target on our back. Everybody is going to bring their A-game to play against us. So that just makes us work even more harder and be more ready than anybody else. I just can’t wait until the season starts. Last year we were good, but I feel like this year we’re just so much better. WE got so much more weapons. Not just the things we had last year. We got shooters. We got drivers. We got scorers in the paint. It’s going to be exciting. We’re looking for even more. Winning another Pac-10 championship and going even further in the NCAA Tournament. Our goal is to get to the Final Four and nothing less. I’m trying to get it into these dudes head that we’re that good. If we come together like we did last year, we’ll be lot better than we were last year.”
(How difficult will it be to replace Jon Brockman?) “We’re not going to replace him. No matter who it is coming into the program and no matter who you are, that’s something you don’t get all the time. He’s not just a rebounder. He’s not just a scorer. He’s just an overall leader and the best leader I’ve ever played with. Even playing with on the Friends of Hoop. He was the best leader and the hardest worker. He always had the attitude of I’m going to work harder than you. So you’re not going to replace that. But we have so many more new guys. So many guys that’s trying to replace him as one. It’s like we’re all is trying to be a Brockman. You can’t replace a Jon Brockman. No matter what you say, you can’t replace him. But we got 3-4 bigs that together we can build on them.”
(What does being a leader mean to you?) “It’s never letting my team down. No matter what. Always leading your team no matter if it’s scoring or assists and not just stat-wise but as a vocal leader, lead by example, everything.”
(Is the competition in these open-gym games a precursor to training camp?) “The talent is crazy on our team. Once it’s training camp and practice starts it’s going to be a war out there. People are going to be fighting for minutes. there’s not going to be friends on the court. But it is what it is.”
(You’re friends with Tony Wroten. What did you think about his injury?) “Right when I heard about it, I shot him a text. I said keep your head up. Luckily it only happened in your junior year and not in your last year. He’s not alright with it, but he’ll be fine once he gets back to it, back to rehabbing he’ll be good. He’s a young dude.”
(When you heard he was playing football, did you think he was making a mistake?) “Maybe a little bit, but I couldn’t blame him. The kid is in high school and you want to try new things. But when you have something at stake where you could be making millions in a couple of years, but I can’t blame him for his decision. It’s his decision. It’s his parents’ decision. I was behind him when he made it. I went to the first game and watched him. He looked good. He got cracked, but he looked good. You can’t really blame a kid who wants to try new things.”
(How is his spirits?) “He good. I talk to him probably every other day. We text. He’s good. He just wants to get it (surgery) over with and get back out there.”
And here’s some Monday links.
— Oregon State coach Craig Robinson is nervous about the preseason love the Beavers are receiving. Doug Gottlieb has OSU No. 3 in the Pac-10 on ESPN.com, Yahoo Sports has OSU making the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1990 and Athlon has OSU finishing fourth in the Pac-10 and going to the NIT.
— According to ESPN.com’s USC affiliate WeAreSC.com, point guard Maurice Jones verbally committed to the Trojans 2010 class on Sunday.
Scroll down the page and you’ll see a report from earlier this month that says small forward Garrett Jackson committed to the Trojans after contemplating interest from Washington, Oregon State, Washington State, St. Mary’s, San Diego, UTEP, Rice, and SMU.
— Finally, a great story by Rivals.com on a pair of UCLA recruits Ray McCallum Jr. and Trey Zeigler.