Isaiah Thomas leads the Pac-10 in assists.
Yes, you read that correctly.
I’ve seen Isaiah Thomas play for years now – and while I respect his intensity, passion (he called me out before the season for not putting him or his teammates on my Preseason All-Pac 10) and ability to score the basketball, I’ve always questioned his propensity to make poor decisions and inability to make his teammates better.
However, Washington’s 5-foot-9 junior guard is starting to finally get it.
In the last three games, Thomas has dished out 26 assists and had just six turnovers.
``When he forces things, that’s when he gets in trouble,” Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar told me earlier this week. ``But that’s few and far between now.”
Romar understands you can’t hand-cuff Thomas or you take away what he does best – which is his aggressiveness and ability to make plays.
``He’s so passionate,” Romar said. ``The dude just wants to win. He’s a guy who will sacrifice numbers to win.”
But so often, it’s been all about making plays for himself.
``Now he’s making his teammates better,” Romar said. ``He’s matured.”
His freshman campaign, Thomas had more turnovers than assists. He shot 29 percent from deep, yet still launched 134 shots from beyond the arc.
This season his scoring has dropped nearly a point per game, but he’s shooting more than 45 percent from the field, 36 percent from long range and has an assist-to-turnover ratio of better than 2-to-1.
Senior big man Matthew Bryan-Amaning, averaging 17 points and 10.2 rebounds over the past six games, has been the beneficiary of the new Thomas, who is playing with more poise than ever before.
So, too, have other guys such as freshman Terrence Ross, who had 25 against Oregon State and 14 in a win over Oregon.
The Huskies got out of the gates slow again this season and failed to capitalize on several non-conference opportunities, but they have showed that they are clearly the Pac-10 favorites with a 4-0 start in league play.
But now, with starting point guard Abdul Gaddy out for the rest of the season and the team going through some off-the-court issues (an unnamed player has been accused of rape), it’ll be up to Thomas to continue to show his newfound maturity.
``He’s grown up,” Romar admitted. ``He’s a different player now.”
- Romar maintains that Bryan-Amaning is far more effective this season with the presence of big man Aziz N’Diaye. ``Now Matthew doesn’t play the other team’s biggest and strongest guy all game,” Romar said. ``He doesn’t have to do all the dirty work by himself. Aziz does all of it.”
- Romar feels terrible for Gaddy, who was just starting to get his confidence. However, he said that now his team is down to two point guards – which is what most teams have. ``Most teams don’t have three point guards,” Romar said. ``We’ll be fine.”