A broken finger on his shooting hand two weeks ago took Doug Thomas out of the PTL before it got started, but the Iowa senior-to-be has taken every opportunity to stay a part of the team. He was in the house as the summer league open play on Wednesday.
We caught up with Thomas and asked how his offseason has gone, what he learned from last season and what he expects from the campaign ahead:
How did you break your finger (middle on right hand)?
I don't know if I took my eye off the ball or what. It was on a pass and it tipped my finger. I didn't even know (it was broke). I thought it was like when you jam it in a game. I was like it was nothing. But then I put my hands together and I felt something. I looked down and my finger was facing my pinky. I popped it back. I thought it was just dislocated. But when I went to the doctors, they said that the bone fractured. I was fortunate that I was able to pop it back into place straight like I did.
What's involved in the recovery?
It will take 4-6 weeks. I ice it to help the swelling go down. I know it won't help the bone heal, but it helps. I do a lot of running. I run a lot of stairs.
When the guys are playing pickup games, I'm on the sideline just trying to stay as close to the team as I can. I do pushups in the morning, situps in the morning when I wake up and before I go to bed. I work hard in the weight room still even though I can't really lift. I'm doing everything with the team except playing.
It's unfortunate I can't play Prime Time, though. I would love to.
How big of a setback is that, not being able to get the extra competition this summer?
Sometimes it's a challenge. Sometimes you're just out there playing.
We're champions of the state. All the other teams, some of which have guys playing in the PTL, don't like that. They come out to compare. But as long as I'm 100 percent for the season, that's all that really matters.
So, you don't think missing the PTL will stunt your development at all?
I still work out with my coaches with my left hand. It's unfortunate that it happened this way, but I'd rather come out in the season and show what I've got.
What can you do with a ball right now?
Actually, my shot with my left hand is looking pretty good. While they're working out, I'm shooting with my left hand on the side.
Tony Freeman was working out one day. He was throwing me lobs and I was catching it with my left hand. He said he's ready to play with me. I'm ready to play with him.
My legs still work. So, I can still run. But as far as shooting, I can't do none of that. It has to be left handed.
Did you get through all of the individual workouts with the coaches before the injury?
I did everything. I lifted with the team. I worked out with the team.
What did you focus on during the individual workouts this year?
I'm really looking to be more of an all around player. I'm 6-8. I dropped down to 240 pounds. I feel good.
What did you play at last year?
I was 255 at the Big Ten Tournament.
How did you do that?
I wasn't even really trying. Last year I was gaining to try to get ready for the next level. But I'm not really concentrating on the next level until after my senior year. But at the Big Ten Tournament, (the scouts) were out there looking. They look at your body appearance and everything. So, i'm just trying to be in the best physical shape I can be in.
At 240, I feel fast. I worked on catching the ball. I worked on the one-dribble pullup. Of course I'm going to be playing the post and do whatever I can for the team, but if I get a chance to shoot the 15-foot jump shot, I'm going to shoot it.
I want to get my free throws back up to 80 percent again and be able to run the court.
You seemed like a different player at the end of last season. Was it just the adjustment from junior college to the Big Ten?
Yeah. I was kind of frustrated with myself because I thought that I wasn't playing to my ability. Coach Alford and all the coaches were saying that I was doing a lot of good things. But it was a big adjustment from junior college to the Division I level.
What was the biggest adjustment?
Pace of the game. Everybody on the Division I level has your same ability; the same size, speed, everything. You just have to learn how to play everybody like that.
At the end of the season at the Big Ten Tournament, I played real good and I played hard and I was getting a lot more minutes. I was staying out of foul trouble. I think I just adjusted to the style of play. I improved a lot.
What are your impressions of Tony Freeman?
He's a workaholic. Me and Tony spend two or three hours a day in the gym even though I can't shoot. I'm on the court with him rebounding for him. He's working on his ball handling. I'm running. I'm trying to show Coach Alford that even though I'm out with an injury I'm still trying to be productive by being in the gym with the freshman.
What will he add to the team?
More point guard skills. We have great guard play. We have Jeff, who is fantastic. Mikey is fantastic. To me, Mikey really is not a point guard. I'm not downplaying his point guard skills, but I feel he's more of a 2. You have Tony to back Jeff up. That's two good guards.
Of course, Tony is going to have to learn the ropes. But it's going to make practice competitive. Practice is going to be good this year. To me, there's really no set spots. Everybody is going out there busting their butts every day in practice in hopes we have a fantastic season.
How realistic is the NBA for you?
NBA is not always guaranteed. That's why coming here my junior year, I wasn't like "Coach Alford, I want to go out this year." I really haven't shown anything. I've shown I'm athletic, but next year I need to show more. I'm still really raw.
In Hawaii, NBA scouts got their eye on me. But they're just not going to pursue it yet until after my senior year. I could do it. Anything is possible. I'm just going to go out and play as hard as I can and show the pro scouts that I'm ready for it. I'm ready for that next level. Hopefully I can get my opportunity. If I do, I'm going to run with it. I'm not going to waste it.
You had a rep as a hot head coming out of high school. How much have you erased that image from people's minds?
I went through a lot growing up in California. People always wondered why I didn't go to school on the West Coast. I think it would have been a distraction because all my friends are out there.
By me going to (North) Carolina, a Christian school, it opened me up more to learn about God. Having him in your life puts you on that straight path.
At Southeastern, I had my slips. But they gave me another chance to prove myself. And I came back and won another national championship.
Coach Alford kept his faith in me and I came here. In the beginning, I really wasn't playing to my potential. Coach Alford knew that. That's why I wasn't getting playing time. But I never got discouraged. I practiced hard every day. I matured a lot as a player and a person.
Was your patience maybe the biggest sign of your maturity?
You can never get down. You can never show nobody that you have that weakness. If you get down on yourself on the court, players see that. Opposing coaches see that. Every time you get the ball they're going to bring people to foul you because they know it's going to get to your mind. By me being mature and keeping my head, that's it not true what they say in the paper about my temper. I'm not hot tempered.
Every player gets mad. The best of them get mad. You see Kobe get mad. Vince Carter gets mad. Shaq gets mad even though he's the most dominant player in the league. But you always have to have that maturity to keep your head on right. You might not get the call. OK. You'll get your foul if you keep playing hard.