Arizona tips off against USC at noon at McKale Center. Pac-12 Los Angeles will broadcast live. The game is also live on radio at KTUC 1400-AM with Brody Dryden calling the action.
October 11, 2016 …
That was the day Sam Thomas announced her commitment to Adia Barnes’ unproven Arizona program at the time, a major coup considering Thomas’ high-profile background at Bloomfield (Mich.) Marion Hills High School and Las Vegas Centennial High School.
Barnes actually had not coached one game at Arizona at that point, when Thomas was about to start her senior season at Centennial High School in Las Vegas.
“With careful thought and consideration I am blessed to say that I have committed to Arizona to continue my athletic and academic career,” Thomas tweeted.
The 6-foot wing chose the Wildcats over scholarship offers from Michigan, Northwestern and UNLV.
“I think it’s a good choice for her,” Centennial coach Karen Weitz told the Las Vegas Review-Journal about Thomas’ decision to attend Arizona.
“She’s a good fit for any program. She’s just so versatile and is a very coachable kid. She will adapt to whatever system. That’s one thing I think about Sam. When she came to me (from Michigan), she was so adaptive to our program.”
Thomas grew up in a basketball family with her father Derek Thomas a long-time coach at the college and club level, but her grandfather Emmitt Thomas is a Pro Football Hall of Famer from his storied career with the Kansas City Chiefs. A cornerback with the Chiefs from 1966-78, Emmitt Thomas owns the Chiefs’ career interception record with 58, which places him ninth on pro football’s career list. He was an assistant coach in the NFL for 38 years retiring in 2019 after 10 years as the Chiefs’ defensive backs coach.
No wonder Sam Thomas is a defensive standout.
March 21, 2015 …
That was the day Sam Thomas as a sophomore at Marian led the Mustangs with 17 points in the Michigan Class A state championship victory over DeWitt. It would be the last game Sam and Bailey played at Marian.
Sam and her family moved from Michigan to Las Vegas in the summer of 2015.
Their mom Julie Thomas is a school nurse in Las Vegas. Derek, a former UNLV assistant before serving as head coach of the Western Illinois’ men’s program from 2003-08, is coaching AAU basketball in Las Vegas and has served as a PE teacher.
Julie has written a blog titled “Life in the Fast Break Lane” that details their family life and offers her sage advice for parents raising children with a hectic lifestyle.
Bailey completed her UNLV career last season and younger sister Jade Thomas is a freshman with the Running Rebels along with former Sahuaro High School standout Alyssa Brown. Younger brother Shane Thomas is a Class of 2022 standout out of Durango High School in Las Vegas.
When Bailey and Sam were nearing the end of the their time at Michigan, they reportedly took unofficial visits to Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Duke and Louisville. They visited Duke together and took a photo with Jabari Parker.
Barnes landing Thomas is one of her most significant achievements since becoming Arizona’s coach, only four months before Thomas made her commitment.
Nov. 10, 2017 …
That date is the first time Sam Thomas played an official game at Arizona (the Wildcats played two exhibition games previously that season). Thomas played 39 minutes that Friday afternoon against Iona. She had 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting from the field, 2 of 4 from 3-point range, while grabbing a team-high seven rebounds. She also had three blocks and two steals.
She showed then in her very first game as a Wildcat what she shows now. Barnes can count on her in so many ways. Somethings never change.
Some 1,568 days later since that game against Iona at McKale Center, Thomas will play what might be her final game there on Saturday when the Wildcats play USC in the regular-season finale. If the NCAA does not designate Arizona to host the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament, this will be it for her storied career in Tucson.
Sam Thomas weathered a 6-24 record as a freshman and thoughts of transferring. She persevered through the seasons of 2019-20 and 2020-21 drastically affected by COVID-19 with the postseason canceled in 2020 and last year without fans at McKale.
She also experienced the euphoria of the WNIT championship in 2019 against Northwestern, one of the schools that actively recruited her out of Centennial High School.
And of course the run to the national championship game last season will live on forever as one of her greatest team achievements.
“I appreciate all the love and support. I feel like it continues to grow and grow year after year, game after game. Just super honored to play here and made the history that we have,” Thomas said in an interview this week with KCUB 1290-AM.
She has evolved into having her own clothing line and writing a weekly column at AllSportsTucson.com, which includes updates on life with her boyfriend Lucas Havrisik, a placekicker at Arizona, and dog Proxy.
One last time perhaps to celebrate her career happens at noon Saturday for the Senior Day festivities. Her family will be in attendance except for Jade, who will be busy with UNLV’s game at Colorado State.
From that game against Iona in 2017 to the one against USC on Saturday, Thomas told 1290-AM she has grown into a “stronger, more independent woman.”
“After having followed Adia for so many years, I just have confidence in myself,” she added. “I started joining a lot of clubs. My academics was a lot better than when I was in high school. I wasn’t a bad kid when I was in high school but now I’m getting these academic awards and becoming a leader of a lot of clubs now.
“I’ve grown in that area, personally, just becoming more confident and becoming a better leader.”
Sam Thomas Achievements
- Named a finalist for the Senior CLASS Award
- Named to the Naismith Trophy Watchlist
- Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup honor given to the most outstanding role models among student-athletes
- CoSIDA Academic All-American
- Elite 90 Award Winner
- 2021 Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year
- Arizona career leader in starts (150) and minutes played (4,976)
- Tied for Pac-12 lead this season in 3-point percentage (.468) and ranks second in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.9)
- Ranks 10th on Arizona’s career scoring list (1,352 points)
- Pac-12’s active career leader in steals with 256, tied for fourth in Arizona history with Adia Barnes
- Ranks second in blocked shots in Arizona history with 192 (Shawntinice Polk has the record of 222)
- Third in 3-pointers made in program history with 213 trailing Lisa Griffith (285) and Davellyn Whyte (274)
PAC-12 ATTENDANCE CHASE
Arizona needs a crowd of 9,608 today on Senior Day honoring Sam Thomas and Ariyah Copeland to pass Oregon for the Pac-12 lead in average attendance this season. If at least a crowd of 9,608 attends, that would increase Arizona’s attendance to 100,706 in 13 home games, an average of 7,752. Oregon leads the conference averaging 7,751 fans in 15 home games. Arizona has never eclipsed 100,000 fans in a season at McKale Center.
Pac-12 Women's Basketball AttendanceEntering games of Feb. 26, 2022. In order for Arizona to pass Oregon, a crowd of at least 9,608 would have to attend today's regular-season finale against USC at noon.
Arizona — Adia Barnes achieved her 100th win at Arizona last month in her sixth season at her alma mater. Her record is 108-72 (which is also her career mark). She is 88-32 (.733) since starting 20-40 in her first two seasons of rebuilding the program.
USC — Lindsay Gottlieb is in her first season at USC after coaching eight years at Cal and three years at UC Santa Barbara before that. Gottlieb, a former Cleveland Cavaliers assistant, is 247-132 in her 12th season as a head coach including records of 12-14 with the Trojans, 179-89 with Cal and 56-39 with UC Santa Barbara.
WHEN ARIZONA HAS THE BALL
— The loss of Cate Reese to a separated shoulder showed its ill-effects on Arizona’s offensive execution in the 64-46 loss against UCLA on Thursday at McKale Center. Somebody must step up to fill the void of Cate Reese’s 15.7 points a game in Pac-12 games. Shaina Pellington, Madison Conner and Bendu Yeaney combined for 36 field-goal attempts against the Bruins and made only 10. Their eight teammates only combined to try 21 field goals. Look for Sam Thomas to become more of a threat on her Senior Day after attempting only three shots against UCLA, making one. Helena Pueyo also must gain more confidence shooting. She only took one shot and missed against the Bruins.
— Thomas is tied for the Pac-12 in 3-point percentage (.462). She can also bring a calming influence to the Wildcats’ execution with an assist-to-turnover ratio (2.9) that ranks second in the Pac-12.
— Arizona must cause havoc on defense to generate its offense in transition. The Wildcats forced only 14 turnovers against UCLA. Arizona thrives most when that number is at least 18. It had only six fast-break points against UCLA.
— USC is one of the better teams in the Pac-12 in field-goal percentage defense (37.1 percent).
— The Trojans top the Pac-12 with 6.38 blocks per game. Rayah Marshall, a 6-foot-4 freshman center, is second in the league with 2.42 blocks per game. Marshall will provide quite a challenge for Lauren Ware.
WHEN USC HAS THE BALL
— USC has struggled to shoot the ball this season ranking No. 11 in the Pac-12 shooting 39.2 percent from the field (31.3 percent from 3-point range).
— Jordyn Jenkins leads the Trojans with 15.2 points per game and she is shooting 53.0 percent from the field.
— Jordan Sanders and Alyson Miura are USC’s biggest threats from 3-point range. Sanders is making 37.9 percent of her shots from beyond the arc while Miura is at 37.5 percent. Arizona knows Miura all too well. She made four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter of USC’s upset 76-67 win over then-No. 4 Arizona in Los Angeles on Jan. 9, handing the Wildcats their first loss of the season.
— Arizona is the top scoring defense team in the Pac-12 allowing opponents to score only 57.2 points per game.
— Helena Pueyo is fourth in steals in the Pac-12 averaging 1.9 a game. Arizona is third as a team in the Pac-12 averaging 8.8 a game.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District