That all said, there was a rawness to Isaiah’s game last year. He never looked completely out of control at all, but for all of the accolades, there was never a sense that we were watching a finished player yet. There was noticeable room for growth on his jumper, defense and decision-making, and maybe some other parts of his game too. That’s what makes this year so exciting. Isaiah was so good as a freshman, I’m thrilled to see what he’s going to look like as a sophomore.
I got to speak with Isaiah recently, in advance of his sophomore season, about what he sees for the team, what he’s working on, and where he sees himself in relation to the NBA Draft. (You’ll have to come back in a few days and read part II for that juicy piece.)
Montlake Madness: So, tell me about how the summer has gone. Where have you played? What parts of your game have you been working on? And who have you been working with?
Isaiah Thomas: This summer has been pretty busy, but cool. I went to a couple of different camps (Deron Williams’ Academy in Dallas, and Chris Paul’s Guard Camp in North Carolina) where I got a chance to work out with two of the best point guards on the planet, as well as some of the other top point guards in the NCAA.
I learned a lot from both of them, and picked up a few new moves and tricks. They also gave me some real good advice, and a few things that I need to focus on. I’ve also been working out with some of the local NBA guys and Husky Alumni like Jamal Crawford, Brandon Roy, Jason Terry, Nate Robinson, Spencer Hawes, Nick Collison, Rodney Stuckey, Will Conroy, etc. All are good friends of mine, who are helping me to be the best I can both on- and off-the-court. And, of course, I’ve been working out hard with my teammates.
Also, throughout the summer I built pretty strong relationships with both Isiah Thomas and Damon Stoudamire. Both of them gave me great advice on what it takes to be a great player in the NBA as a smaller guard. They both speak from real experience as well, which means a lot. Those are guys that I really look up to.
MM: What’s the part of your game you’d like to improve most from last season? What do you consider your greatest strength on the court, and what’s your greatest weakness?
IT: I am always working to improve every aspect of my game, because I’m not perfect at anything. But some of the things I have been focused on are my mid-range game, as well as my consistency from deep. My greatest strength on the court is my confidence, and my ability to get by any defender and either to the hoop for two or an “and-1.” I feel that no defender can stay in front of me.
My greatest weakness is probably my defense. I’ve improved a whole lot, but I want to be looked at as one of the elite defenders. So, until I’m looked at like that, I’m gonna consider this my biggest weakness.
MM: What can we expect to see from Isaiah Thomas as a sophomore? What kind of statistics would you consider to be a successful season?
IT: A much more mature, confident, and experienced player who’s hungry for not only another Pac-10 championship but a National Championship. I think we can be that good this year. I’m a lot stronger, I have more stamina, I’ve improved my jumper and range, and I’m gonna be even more tenacious and ready to lead our team.
I’m also looking forward to showing off my athleticism, and may wake the fans and the Dawg Pack up with a few dunks. (laughs) I’d be very satisfied if I could average around 20 points, five assists, five rebounds, and shoot 85 percent from the free-throw line. That would be a good year for me statwise.
MM: Many fans, media, experts, etc. have pointed out the many strengths of the Husky basketball team. Tell me what you perceive as the biggest overall weakness of the team.
IT: I don’t think it’s necessarily a weakness, but we have to prove to everyone that we can rebound as well as we did last year with the loss of Jon Brockman. We have the guys to do it, like MBA, Tyreese, Darnell, Clarence, J-Holiday, etc. But, we all have to work to do it. It’s gonna be a total team effort. Even though people are looking for us to be pretty good, we are gonna surprise a lot of people with how good we actually are.
MM: Describe the chemistry on the court between you and Abdul Gaddy. How much have you guys played together so far? And what will be the best things about the combination of you two at the guard positions? And what will be the hardest part about playing together?
IT: Gaddy is like a little brother to me. I’ve known him since he was in, like, fifth grade, because we played for the same AAU program. Our chemistry is gonna surprise a lot of people. We’re both from Tacoma, we know exactly how each other plays, as well as each other’s tendencies on the court. And, we’re both ready to prove to everyone how good we will be as a backcourt. I think we can be the best backcourt in the country.
The best thing about playing with him is his court vision, and his patience with the ball. He knows exactly where and when to pass it, where to dribble to, etc. He is a pure point guard. But don’t sleep on his scoring ability either, ’cause he can get buckets too. There isn’t a hard part about playing with him. We actually make the game a lot easier for each other.
MM: There’s a lot being discussed right now about who is (and isn’t) being recruited by Coach Romar and his staff from the 2010 and 2011 high school classes. What current high school ballers would you like to see UW recruit?
IT: I want to see Coach Romar, Chills, and the other coaches just continue to bring in the top guys like they have been. Of course, I want to see guys like Tone Tone (Tony Wroten) and Big Josh (Smith) stay home and come to the Dub. Also Terrence Jones from the 503 (Portland). We need that guy!
MM: Which one of your teammates is most likely to surprise people this season with his improvement?
IT: I think Tyreese is gonna surprise a lot of people, because most people haven’t seen what he can do on the court. He is like Charles Barkley out there, and is gonna help out a lot in grabbing some of those rebounds Jon used to grab. I also think Scott Suggs and J-Holiday are gonna wake a lot of people up too. . .
Join us in a few days for part II of the interview, during which Isaiah weighs in on the highlights and lowlights of his basketball career, where he fits in position-wise at the professional level, and he gives us his thoughts on the timing of his entry to the NBA Draft.
Thanks for coming! See you soon.