Speaking publicly for the first time after the Sacramento Kings selected him No. 60 in Thursday’s NBA Draft, Isaiah Thomas described the process as nerve-wracking, surprising, disappointing and a blessing.
The former Washington guard admitted he cried when he received the call from his agent telling him the Kings took him with the final pick in the draft.
He also admitted that he expected to go higher in the draft. A week ago, he believed he might be taken late in the first round.
Considering how far he fell in the draft, there’s a loud chorus of critics who believe Thomas should have returned for his senior year at Washington.
If he maintained his 16.4 scoring average and played 35 games as he did the previous three seasons, Thomas would have finished with 2,295 points and shattered UW’s all-time scoring record of 2,073 held by Chris Welp. Thomas would have also surpassed Will Conroy as UW’s all-time assists leader had he maintained his career average over 35 games.
Perhaps more importantly, Thomas had a chance to make Washington history and become the only Husky to play in four NCAA tournaments.
So here’s the argument against opting for the draft. Another year in school and he could have presented himself to the NBA as winningest and most decorated player in UW history.
Even with junior Abdul Gaddy returning to point guard and the arrival of incoming freshman guard Tony Wroten Jr., Thomas would have been the centerpiece of the team as he’s been the past three seasons. He may not have dominated the ball as he did last season, but he would have had plenty of chances to showcase his skills.
And he would have been the marquee player in a Pac-12 conference devoid of star power.
The argument for leaving Washington says Thomas was wise to capitalize on a successful junior season in which he proved he could lead a team at the point guard position. His signature moment came in a CBS-televised game when he drained a last-second shot to win the Pac-10 Tournament in overtime.
Plus, the threat of a lockout kept a few prospects in college, which weakened the draft and potentially opened a spot higher than if Thomas entered the 2012 draft.
Say what you will about his inconsistent jumper, low assist-to-turnover ratio and ability to execute the pick-n’-roll, Thomas couldn’t improve the one thing that concerns every NBA team passed him over. He’s not going to grow any taller.
At 5 feet and 9 inches and 5-10 1/2 in basketball shoes, Thomas is a risky draft pick most teams were unwilling to make.
Thomas argues another year at UW wasn’t going to change his height so why not leave now. But on the flip side, if he’s not to grow any taller, why not improve everything else on the resume.
It’s an interesting debate involving one of the most scrutinized players in the history of Washington athletics. Maybe it’s fitting his college career ended with fans second-guessing his final decision as a Husky.
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar talked with KJR-AM talk show host Dave Mahler this morning about Thomas’ decision to leave Washington.
“That’s what Isaiah wanted,” Romar said. “Isaiah felt like he could play in that league. One thing with Isaiah, if you tell him he can’t do something he’s going to make sure he does his best to get it done. There’s been a lot of doubters with him, but he is now a draft choice and the property of the Sacramento Kings and I think it’s wonderful.”
Here’s a transcript of Thomas’ interview released by Washington after the draft.
(What do you think about being drafted?) “I’m very excited. You know me. That’s all I wanted. All I needed was a chance…and I got it. I’m going to take full advantage of it.”
(How nerve-wracking was it to have to wait so long to hear your name called?) “It was real nerve-wracking because I didn’t expect to go that late. Even my agent was a little surprised because we heard different things coming up into the draft. Other than that, it was just a blessing to get picked. I’m just glad. God has a plan for me and He chose for me to get picked by Sacramento. It’s a great organization and it’s a young team. I’m just ready to get after it.”
(How did the draft process go with Sacramento and what do you know about them?) “I know a little bit. I had two of my good friends Jon Brockman and Spencer Hawes play there in previous years, so I know a little bit. I had a great workout there. It was one of my first workouts and I shot the ball well and just competed at a high level. They liked that. I talked to Coach Paul Westphal today and one of the Maloof brothers after they selected me and they were surprised that I dropped that late, but they were also excited. They told me they can’t wait to meet me and can’t wait to get things going because they the type of player I am. I’m just happy because everybody doesn’t get this opportunity.”
(Will being selected as the last pick add to the chip that is already on your shoulder?) “Yes. You know it will. I will be in the gym tomorrow. While I’m disappointed that some of the player got chosen ahead of me, at the same time, everything happens for a reason. I’m just ready to get after it and show the other 29 teams that they made a mistake.”
(How did you spend the draft?) “I was on my own. I was just waiting for my agent to call. I didn’t watch the draft. I was looking at (the TV) every few minutes, but I was just on my own playing the waiting game until my time came.”
(When did you know you were going to be selected?) “During the 58th pick I found out that Sacramento was going to take me. My agent called me and I was just excited. I shed a little tear with my family members. I got back home (to his Seattle apartment) right as my agent called. He called me right as I was walking up to my family members. It was just a blessing. It is a moment I will cherish for my life, but at the same time I got my foot in the door and now I’m going to knock it down.”
(What were you doing prior to the draft?) “I was up at the UW all day. I was just chilling with my teammates…Scott Suggs, Darnell (Gant), Dez (Desmond Simmons). We were in the gym for like four hours. We were just chilling and talking. It was good. I had my UW shirt on when I was drafted…I’m in purple now…so you know I’m going to always stay true to my school.”
(What’s your message to Husky and Kings fans?) “Husky fans, I hope you stay rooting for me and Kings’ fans, I’m going to bring a winner’s mentality and give 110 percent every chance I get.”
So after reading what Thomas and Romar had to say, what do you think?