St. John's basketball in review: 2008-09 Rob Thomas

#55 - Rob Thomas

St John's logo2008-2009 Class: Sophomore

Position: Forward

Height: 6'6"

Weight: 226

Age/ DOB: 23/ May 23, 1986

Home: Harlem, NY

stats taken from Statsheet, kenpom.com, and my own calculations

2008-2009 Highs

High Minutes
30
(Georgetown (I))
High Points
16
(Georgetown (I))
High Rebs
9
(Virginia Tech)
High Off Rebs
6
(Howard)
High FG Att
11
(Cincinnati (II))
High FT Att
12
(Louisville)

A conversation about Rob Thomas has to touch on the poignant parts of his life story: his injuries, his life as a homeless kid in New York, dyslexic and with no place to go. ESPN's Outside the Lines will be doing a piece on him in the coming weeks; his experience is an ode to perseverance.

But as a basketball player, he has not enjoyed a superstar career, though older than his peers. Much of that is simply because he has not received heavy regular minutes on the court... or is unable to log heavy minutes. Rob Thomas vs ConnecticutBut around the rim, to paraphrase from Mike Tyson's style, Rob Thomas' style is tenacious, his touch is sinuous, and he's just ferocious. I thought he battled harder under the glass than anyone, and his putbacks were much softer than his teammates' efforts... his touch is a talent.

Thomas scored decently in conference, with an effective field goal percentage (fg% with 3-pointers factored in) of 47.7%; he scored 1.05 points per possession, which is solid. He didn't turn the ball over often, and looked for the basket aggressively, though this might have to do with him putting the ball back up after snagging offensive rebounds. The offensive rebounding percentage was very good (14.9% of misses while he was on the floor). He scored 7.6 points per game in only 15 minutes per contest.

Rob Thomas didn't get consistent time, even though he tended to be efficient. He logged single digit minutes in the first three games, and then against Louisville (4 mins), Syracuse (9 mins, though he started), Georgetown in the Big East Tourney (7 mins), and Richmond (9 mins). It seems that Coach sees Thomas as a backup to Sean Evans and to a lesser extent, to Justin Burrell. Or perhaps coach is a big believer in playing the hot hand.

An interesting shot-selection item: what happened to his outside jump shot? In 2008, Thomas displayed a little range on his attempts, and attempted 5 3-pointers. Then again, it is nice to have a forward who wants to play down low and get fouled. Even if Thomas shot under 57% (17-30) on his free throws in conference.

Impact on the 2009-2010 Season

The possible effects of injuries aside, Thomas will hopefully get a few more minutes per game in a frontcourt with few options. Wait and Jasiulionis were emergency bodies, and the few minutes they absorbed are not enough to give run to Rob Thomas and new JUCO recruit Justin Brownlee. Moreover, there is a glut of guards and wings on the team - Mason, Horne, Kennedy, Dwight Hardy, Omari Lawrence. One of the newcomers will demand some time; will Coach play a 4 guard lineup with Kennedy and/ or Mason at the power forward position?

Rob Thomas vs GeorgetownIf so, Thomas will see less time. But Rob Thomas was a talented athletic player who may still be recovering from knee surgeries. And now, he has touch, he rebounds, he doesn't turn the ball over. On the Red Storm, he is a rarity in his limited minutes - an efficient role player. Here are some aspects of his game that this blog thinks Rob Thomas needs to improve:

Stamina. Thomas looked winded at times, and isn't particularly fast coming up and down the court. He has talked about wanting to drop some weight to become closer to the player that he was; but dropping that weight might leave him in competition for time with DJ Kennedy and Anthony Mason, both of whom are dependable players who will get a lot of minutes. If the staff can't trust him to stay on the floor with consistent effort, then his bench time is warranted.

Athleticism. Thomas was known as a great athlete at his size. These days, his footwork on defense is that of a guy who will be dunked on following a spin move... he needs to get quicker and play better positional defense. A little more lift on his shots and rebounds will mean that he will get fouled a little more. And as mentioned before, he needs to be able to run with the team; there are enough athletes on the squad that they should look for opportunities to be aggressive and spring up the court on offense.

Free Throw Shooting. Playing in the post and shooing under 60% is a problem, and it will come up again with Sean Evans' recap. Against the undersized Seton Hall (at Newark), Thomas converted 6 of his 12 attempts, and the team lost by 10. Those conversions don't make up the scoring difference, or eliminate the 45-29 halftime lead by the Seton Hall Pirates, but poor free throw shooting will lose a close game.

Here's hoping that Rob Thomas receives some energy minutes off the bench in 2009-2010. He displays the best combination of brawn and skill around the basket; where the other forwards display skill/ athleticism OR dogged brawn. But at 6'6" and without his former athleticism, it's going to be a battle to earn time on the court. I think he will continue to get chunks of minutes; his effort is what Coach Roberts wants to see on the court from his players.

 

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