The Arkansas true freshman showed the best of both worlds during Tuesday's 85-73 win against Tulsa in Bud Walton Arena.
At 6-foot-8, 243 pounds, Thomas can definitely bang down low with the big boys. But he displayed finesse from the perimeter with a barrage of long-range jumpers to lead the Razorbacks (5-0) with a career-high 16 points. He also added four rebounds and a pair of assists in his second career start.
"He brought us a big lift," said Hogs center Steven Hill. "He can go inside and he can go outside and that poses a big threat for a lot of (power forwards). He's big enough that he can guard a (power forward), but he also has the skills of a guard.
"I know I couldn't guard him."
Tulsa's big men couldn't either. Guillherme Teichman, a 6-foot-9, 213-pound senior forward, was muscled off the blocks all game by Thomas.
"He's pretty strong," Teichman said. "They have some really physical post players. This year, we haven't faced guys like that yet."
Arkansas coach Stan Heath said Thomas' aggressiveness inside helped lead to Tulsa center Anthony Price's three first-half fouls. Price, the Golden Hurricane's top inside presence, fouled out with just under three minutes remaining.
"That's the kind of guy we need," Heath said. "Somebody to put fouls on people and make their free throws. (Price) is a big key to their team and Charles helped take him out of the game."
Razorbacks guard Eric Ferguson said it's Thomas' strength (he bench presses 250 pounds and squats 315) that allows him to get open while posting up taller players down low.
"He loves to bang," Ferguson said. "He's got guard-like speed, but he's got a big man's body. He's the type of player we need on the inside because he's going to bang no matter who it is.
"Regardless of their height, he's going to take them."
That was Thomas in forward mode. He showed his guard-like skills early in the first half, hitting jump shots from 16-, 18- and 11-feet in less than a two-minute span. He was 5 of 8 from the field and 6 of 8 from the free throw line.
Asked if he was ready to make the switch to shooting guard, Thomas chuckled for a moment before responding.
"I'm trying to figure out everything as a forward, trying to work out as a bigger player," Thomas said. "That's one of the reasons Coach said he liked me when he was recruiting me. He said I had the ability to take bigger guys off the dribble and post smaller guys up."
Arkansas' coaches didn't start recruiting Thomas heavily until after the Nike All-American Camp in Indianapolis the summer before his senior year.
That week, Thomas played guard primarily and showed college coaches his true range as a prospect, since most knew him strictly as an inside player before the camp.
Thomas said he improved his perimeter shooting the most this past summer while having "shooting duels" against Arkansas teammate Michael Jones.
"Before the game, Mike told me that I wasn't really taking the open shots that I had in the last game," Thomas said. "And judging by how hard we were going at it last summer, he said he trusts me to make those shots and I know the coaches do as well."
And now the 16,603 fans in Bud Walton Arena on Tuesday night do, too.
Best Of Both Worlds For Thomas
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