One on one with Elijah Thomas

It's never too early to look ahead in the world of high major recruiting. Duke appears to be doing just that by identifying a number of prospects in the class of 2015. One such player is 6'8 center Elijah Thomas out of Rockwall, Texas. Recently Thomas sat down with TDD to provide an early look at his recruiting and more.

TDD: It seems like you're starting to gain some buzz on the national circuit. Which schools are in contact the most?

Elijah Thomas: Well, both before this summer, Detroit sent a lot of stuff. UCLA, Marquette, those are schools that frequently send letters and stuff. Arizona and Duke too.

Before we talk too much about recruiting and basketball, what are your interests off the court?

Well, I'm a really big kid who likes to play games, chill with my family and friends.

Which leads me to ask about your latest heigh and weight…

I'm 6-foot-9 and right around 235 pounds. I've always been a tall kid but when I was younger I was also really big weight wise. I weighed about 270, so I've lost a lot of weight too.

What made you want to lose the weight?

Honestly, I just didn't want to be fat and uncomfortable. I knew I needed to get adjusted weight wise. I was always coordinated, just needed to get my body right.

Are you a big college or NBA guy when it comes to watching games?

Oh, I love college way more than the NBA game, because it's way more intense. Usually in the NBA, the coaches are more laid back, but college coaches, they demand more and I like that.

What makes you appreciate that intensity?

It's just my personality.

Any favorite college bigs or teams?

Bigs wise I really liked this past season the big kid from Florida State, Bernard James and Meyers Leonard, the big kid from Illinois. My favorite player though was Jeremy Lamb from UConn, it was cool seeing him go pro so high.

Is that a big deal to you, seeing guys get drafted high at your position?

No, not really, it's really more about how good the coach is. How he's going to teach you and prepare you for the next level. The educational program is important and I want to go to a school that wins, I want to play with good players.

Is being competitive a hallmark of your game?

It's more like a have the whole team together, if we don't click well, if everybody is ready to play together, that's how it comes. I'm always ready to play.

When did you get really serious about playing ball and working hard at it?

Seventh grade really. There were people who wanted to work with me, so I started working out some trainers who were around me, just trying to work hard and get better.

What kind of stuff do your trainers work on with you?

We work on inside and out, a lot of ball-handling. My trainer is like, 'you already got the height and athleticism, now you gotta be able to showcase that in games by being a good ball-handler, so you can make plays'. We work on pressure movements, being mentally tough, finishing through contact.

Are you going to be an inside out player or you want to be more of a stay at home big?

I want to be able to do both, but most of all I just want to be able to do what the coaches want me to do.

Have you tried to incorporate any other player's part of their games into your game?

Yeah, sometimes I've done that with LeBron, like when he misses a shot, he gets the rebound and gets it up fast. Being explosive off passes. Kevin Garnett, I get a floater from him, Hakeem Olajuwon I do a lot of footwork, my trainer showed me some video of Hakeem, that's helped a lot.

How are you handling all the increase in recruiting attention now that you've become more known as a top player?

I really try not to pay attention to it because I'll be honest, when I was younger, I paid way too much attention to it and in sixth, seventh grade, I wasn't as good a player because I was paying attention too much to the rankings. Rankings don't mean anything to me, I've looked more at when I play guys, I try to shut them down, but other than that I don't think about the rankings.

What are the coaches you are looking forward to talking to in the future?

Well, I've talked with some already because I've gone on several visits on different campuses, but there are some coaches that I'm hoping to meet soon.

Like who?

Coach K, Billy Donovan, Jim Calhoun, Tom Izzo, Roy Williams, Georgetown and Florida State coaches, those are all really good coaches I'm looking forward to meeting.

What schools have you already visited?

Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, Kansas, I was supposed to visit Missouri but the head coach wasn't going to be there, so we didn't visit there. When I go visit I really want to meet with the head coaches, that's important. I'm supposed to be visiting Duke at some point soon too.

Has Duke tried to line up a visit yet

I'm not completely sure yet, all that stuff gets arranged through my coaches or sometimes my mom.

What's your mom's impression of the recruiting process?

She thinks it's cool, but she doesn't want schools to take advantage of me. We've got high aspirations. I think she's going to visit with me on some of the visits.

How did you get plugged in with the AAU team you're playing for?

Well, it was mainly because of my friend Austin Grandstaff and his dad. I'm friends with Austin, I wanted to be sponsored, so I tried out for his Nike team he's on, we started getting better and better, last year we finished 2nd in Nationals and then this year we built an even better team, we beat a lot of teams.

How long do you and Austin go back?

We go back probably to fifth or sixth grade, that's when we first knew each other but we actually used to hate each other, we were big rivals on different AAU teams, we used to compete against each other.

So what changed then, how did you two become such good friends?

We became friends, when we were younger, the rivalry was everything, but now, we plan on going to college, so it's not a competitive thing anymore, we're just maturing.

Have you guys done visits together?

Yeah, we've done a lot of the same visits together.

You mentioned Coach K before, are you watching any of the Olympics?

I've tried to, but I've only seen one game. In this hotel we're staying in, we don't get all the channels that the games are on, I can't find all the games. I watched the game with the Karl Towns, that's the only game I saw, when he played for Dominican Republic.

Have you two matched up on the court?

No, the only highly touted guy I've played is Diamond Stone.

You sound dialed into the discussion about top players, is that a fair assessment?

I don't pay attention to it for the rankings, I do it more because people put my name in there, maybe that I'm not good enough, so when I play top guys, I play like I'm going to show that player just how good I am. I'm just playing basketball, I'm not worrying about the rankings.

You mentioned the upcoming visit to Duke, is that the only visit you have left right now to go?

UCLA is saying they want to get me on campus, but I haven't gotten a visit lined up yet there.

How does it make me feel to have the cream of the college crop recruiting you?

It's really a motivating factor for me, like if I'm not pushing myself enough, I'll say to myself, this is not something that a Duke player would do, if Coach K were here he'd be holding me to a higher standard, so I follow that when I'm working out, I try to take it seriously like Coach K would.

What makes you reference Coach K in your mindset as opposed to any other school?

Because out of the schools that have shown interest, Duke by far is the one who is the highest school out of all them. Arizona, Texas, Baylor, those are all good schools, but Duke by far is the best school out of all them for me personally.

In terms of going pro, do you have aspirations to go pro after one year if you are good enough?

It just really depends, like you look at Willie Warren, he should have gone pro after one year, but he did something wrong after staying a second year and now he's not even in the NBA. For me, I want to win, I want to win a national championship, but I also think that if I'm a potential lottery pick at that point, I would look at going potentially.

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