Thomas now serious about basketball

November 02, 2003|JILL ERWIN

Sheray Thomas doesn't remember the first Kentucky basketball game he saw, and he doesn't remember exactly when he first decided to consider playing for the Wildcats.

But the 6-7 freshman guard remembers exactly when he decided to come to UK.

"When I came here for my visit, I loved it," Thomas said. "That's what made me come here. UK is a prime-rate program. Coach (Tubby) Smith, everyone is real good. I love it here."

This is only Thomas' third year of playing basketball in the United States. He grew up in Montreal and played his first two years of high school in Canada before transferring to Riverdale Baptist (Md.). He led that team to a combined 39-19 record in his junior and senior years.

Those two schools have allowed him to see the differences between the two countries and the way they approach the game.


"The States takes it a little more serious," Thomas said. "The fans are always there and the coaches are more into it. Where I was from, coaches didn't get paid or anything to coach. It was just volunteer work. Here it's a little more serious."

Even when playing in the Washington area in high school, Thomas wasn't exposed to the rabid fan attention that he will face at Kentucky.

He said he's already seen a little bit of it from the fans around Lexington and the interest paid to the team. But Thomas knows that same exposure will pay off in the future.

"I've experienced a little bit of it," Thomas said. "On my visit, I saw a little bit of it. I see a little bit of it every day. I'm fine with that.That's one of the reasons why I came here, to get that media and get that exposure. That way, if I go to the next level, I'll already be used to it. I'll be more tested."

Thomas is the second Canadian on this year's team (joining sophomore Bernard Cote) and the third overall. He and Cote are both from Quebec, a French-speaking province.

But Thomas denied that he and Cote use the second language to carry on private conversations.

"Nah," Thomas said. "My French is all right. I can understand it real well though."

Thomas is trying to understand his new role on Kentucky's team. After averaging 21 points, 12 rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots as a senior on the inside, Thomas is now having to deal with improving his outside shot.

That involved a change in philosophy, but Smith said he can see improvement from Thomas, who figures to play mainly at power forward this year.

"He needs to continue to improve his perimeter skills, and he is getting better," Smith said.

Thomas said his summer was a parade of shots as he tried to get a longer range on his shots.

"My shot ... I was constantly shooting," Thomas said. "Just repetition. Shot after shot after shot. It's still not there yet, but I feel like it's getting there. I'm playing a little bit inside, little outside. I'm fine with it."

He said his shot wasn't horrible in high school, but he knew it wasn't at the level Smith wanted it to be at.

"It was all right, but it wasn't that good," Thomas said. "It had its days. But you can't have an off day here."

The freshman said the change in the level of play between high school and Kentucky has been a huge one. He said every day at practice is a challenge to get better and stay with the older players.

"They push me every day," Thomas said. "Every day is a battle. They put me in the right places. There are a lot of leaders on this team, all the seniors, and they all just are trying to get us ready."

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