As a rising sophomore in 2012, gaining valuable exposure at the Peach Jam with Team Texas Elite, Elijah Thomas earned a blue-chip status that he has maintained continuously over the past 18 months.
Thomas self-identified early as a power player. His style then greatly resembles what it does now; he's a low block scorer who can deliver at short-range via right or left hand.
His sophomore season affirmed his growing stature with college coaches. His early list, which would continue to expand, included Georgetown, Duke, Illinois, Missouri, Texas A&M, California, North Carolina State, Texas, Baylor, Louisville, Kansas, Arizona and UCLA, to name but a few.
He hit the road in 2013 again with Team Texas Elite, playing on the 17-under EYBL circuit. His size and skill level enabled him to produce far more consistently than most other frontcourt prospects, including those a class ahead of him.
By the end of summer he had grown vertically and in terms of mass. He now stands 6-9, 250 pounds and projects as a true college center. He also began to cut his list, which may sound silly given that he narrowed his suitors to a whopping 24 schools, but nevertheless that's how he framed his recruitment heading into his junior season.
He made another decision prior to the 2013-14 campaign, leaving Dallas (Texas) Prime Prep in favor of Lancaster (Texas) High. As of early this month, he was averaging a solid, if unspectacular 14 points and 10 rebounds per game.
Solid and unspectacular aren't bad adjectives by which to open an examination of his game. True big guys with bulkier body types ordinarily don't jump out of the gym, and Thomas is no exception. He's a reasonably good athlete for his size, but that's the rub.
As such, I believe he'll fare best in halfcourt scenarios rather than a more relentlessly uptempo game. It's not that he can't run, he'll simply get more opportunities to score when possessions extend past the first few seconds.
Thomas can be a lot of fun to watch when he's energized and his teammates are feeding him down low. Centers frequently become disillusioned when their guards are a toxic combination of selfish and incompetent, and Thomas can fall prey to that temptation, but when his game is clicking he's among the best scorers in the Class of 2015.
He possesses a strong base, no fear of contact, good balance, excellent hands and a soft, ambidextrous touch around the rim. Those qualities make him a load to handle, and at his size he'll typically enjoy a weight and power advantage even in college.
Down the road he may need to diversify his offense to become more inside/out, and he must guard against a prior tendency to become out of shape.
Still, low post scorers still can succeed both in college and the NBA, and Thomas will have an opportunity this spring and summer to prove he's every bit as good — or perhaps even better — than his top 15 national ranking. Along with potentially stout interior defense and strong rebounding qualities, he'll be a feature attraction on the grassroots trail for the next several months.