Upon entering into conversation with Thomas, it becomes clear that hers is a smile fueled by a love of the game and broadened by the prospect of competition. Her grounded personality reveals a player that values teamwork, displays great maturity, and possesses a deep understanding of the game. And her muscular definition and formidable build translate to a dominant force in the paint, a fierce rebounder, and a body primed for endurance.
As Thomas continues to speak, one comes to an undeniable conclusion: Alyssa Thomas was made for basketball.
Thomas, who cites her parents as the most influential figures in her basketball career, fondly recalls the atmosphere of her household growing up as one of spirited competition.
According to Thomas, whose tenaciously quick hands provoke a team-high 2.4 steals per game, growing up in such an environment augmented an already intrinsic will to win.
They never let me get a win, said Thomas. So that made me work that much harder because I wanted to beat them. So I think they shaped my competitiveness in always going out to get the win and not settling.
That competitive drive to win blossomed for Thomas in high school, where she led the Central Dauphin Rams to victory in the state championship her sophomore year, was named a 2010 ESPN, Parade, and USA Today All-American, became her school's all-time leading scorer, and ended her time there as a member of the school's all-time winningest class.
At Maryland, Thomas' competitive mindset has proved incredibly responsive to the preseason challenge presented by the coaching staff to become the fittest team in the country. Thomas was reported to be the first player to pass the strenuous conditioning test, can regularly be seen leading the team in sprints at practice, and maintains a key role in the Terps' transition game, frequently running the ball up the court for a fast break layup.
And like any great competitor, Thomas' competitiveness has flourished most noticeably when her team has needed it the most, during ACC play.
Thomas earned her first double-double of the season at No. 3 Duke, the Terps' most bitter rival and highest-ranked opponent. She then recorded her second double-double in a trying match-up against Boston College, and has been averaging a team-high 16.7 points per game and 11.3 rebounds per game since conference play began.
Thomas complements such competitiveness with a strong sense of humility; she is a player untouched by arrogance or entitlement. Widely described as quiet and observant, Thomas' earnest nature bodes well for her scouting abilities and basketball IQ.
I like to observe, said Thomas. Just watching films of the players that we play. I think that helps me get a better understanding and a feel for how that player plays or the team in general.
Her maturity is further evidenced by the amount of time she spends on the floor, leading the team in minutes per game with 26.4. She continues to lead the Terps with 35.3 minutes per game in conference play, an unmistakable indication of the coaches' confidence in her decision-making and composure.
Thomas' quiet wisdom has also allowed her to more fully benefit from the presence of the 2006 national championship players that have reportedly frequented Comcast Center this season, including Marissa Coleman, Laura Harper, and most recently Crystal Langhorne.
Despite the acclaim that her own freshman class has received as the No. 2 recruiting class in the nation, Thomas fully recognizes and respects the Maryland legacy.
It's been really helpful, they know what it takes to win a championship, said Thomas. And to have them around giving us tips and advice is really meaningful to us.
Finally, the edge Thomas gains from her competitiveness and high basketball IQ is drastically increased by her natural ability.
Gifted with a naturally imposing frame, her teammates have affectionally dubbed Thomas as Bron-Bron, in acknowledgement of the similarities they feel she shares with NBA great LeBron James, in terms of physicality and dynamism.
Thomas' strength has allowed her a demonstrable advantage in boxing out, ripping down rebounds, charging to the basket, and wrestling for loose balls. Her team-best 13.4 points per game and second-best 7.1 rebounds per game have earned her wide recognition across the conference, amounting to three ACC Rookie of the Week honors.
Carrying with her that seemingly hereditary competitive drive, remaining grounded by humility, and continually strengthening an already impressive skill set, Alyssa Thomas is excelling at the game she loves.
I just love basketball, just everything about it, said Thomas.