Transfer Thomas cracks starting lineup

It's been said that necessity is the mother of invention. <br><br>Such is the case with Emmett Thomas.

As a freshman at South Alabama, Thomas was a scorer, averaging 9.5 points per game for a 22-11 Jaguars team. As a sophomore at Bevill State in Jasper, Thomas averaged 19 points per game for a team that finished 20-9.

Now a junior, the well-traveled 6-4 forward's experience and defensive prowess have granted him significant playing time for the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, his third team in three years.

His role, however, has changed dramatically. Though Thomas has worked hard, he hasn't averaged nearly the point totals he did at either Bevill State or South Alabama.

His hard work has lately come to fruition, as Thomas's first official start with the Crimson Tide yielded 14 points, four assists, three steals, one block and three rebounds in a 72-63 win over Bowling Green.

But though his insertion into the starting lineup did yield more points for him, Thomas says his role with the team remains the same.

"I don't think my role has changed at all," he said Saturday after Alabama's 69-61 win over Providence. "I'm supposed to defend and help get the ball inside; I take shots whenever the defense gives me a look."

Excellent defense and solid ball handling has earned Thomas a spot in Alabama's starting lineup. (Associated Press)

Thomas was muted against Providence, taking only three shots in six minutes before a stomach flu forced him to the bench for the remainder of the Tide's victory.

"He just had no energy," Coach Mark Gottfried said. "He said he was okay and that he was ready to play, but it was obvious that he wasn't able to go.

"But he's played very well; he's definitely earned the right to be in the starting lineup. He defends so well, and he plays hard on offense without turning the ball over. We've got a bunch of wing guys who work hard and are all a little bit different from each other."

Thomas says only that he wants to contribute in whatever way he can.

"I just like to compete," he says. "Yeah, I'm a pretty good defender, I guess, but I mean, (Antoine) Pettway's a good defender; Mo (Williams) is a good defender; we all play good defense. I just want to compete."

Having transferred to Tuscaloosa from Bevill State (after a year at South Alabama), the junior from John Carroll High School has yet to taste the atmosphere and competitiveness of the SEC. He has yet to defend any of the small forwards or shooting guards that proliferate the conference.

Mention it, though, and Thomas's eyes light up like a Christmas tree.

"I'm ready," he says. "It's gonna be tough, defending guys like that."

"But, you know, they got to check us, too."

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