Thomas Continues to Shine for Terps

TSR goes one-on-one with Terp sophomore Alyssa Thomas.

In sports, there is a myth about a “sophomore slump,” in which a player struggles in his or her second year after a great rookie season. And a great rookie season is what Alyssa Thomas had last year, culminating in her being named the ACC Rookie of the Year and setting up high expectations for this one.

But for Alyssa Thomas, there has been no sophomore slump. She has done nothing but grow from her freshman season, resulting in her currently ranking second in the ACC in scoring and seventh in rebounding. Yet the humble Thomas is quick to defer the attention, pointing out the strength of her teammates.

“It's not something I really think about,” she said. “Any given night anybody can score, and it just happens that sometimes it's me.”

Still, Thomas realizes that while she is young, there is no doubt that she is one of the leaders of the sixth-ranked Maryland Terrapins.

“This year I have to take more of a leadership stance, and really be more vocal with the team,” she said.

It was a change in roles from her freshman season, but one that she has proven she is up to the task for. On several occasions this season Thomas has been the Terps go-to player late in games, including a game-winning basket against Georgia Tech in January and a reverse lay-up at the buzzer against UNC to send the game into overtime.

“My team looks for me to make big shots, and I don't really think about the pressure,” she said. “I just think about getting the win and whatever it takes for the shot to go in.”

Yet Thomas' impact on her team stretches beyond just being a dependable scorer. She leads the Terrapins in steals and is second on the team in both rebounds and assists. Often though, it is just the effort she brings to the table that is invaluable.

“She brings so much to our team,” said teammate Laurin Mincy after the Terps game against Boston College. “She brings a lot of energy, when she's doing her thing we just follow her lead. When she's out there defenders pay a lot of attention to her and it opens up the floor for everyone.”

Lately it has seemed that teams are putting extra effort into trying to slow down Thomas. After the game against Duke on Feb. 19, in which she was held to just eight points, Head Coach Brenda Frese admitted that teams have been double and even triple teaming Thomas at times, something that she has had to learn to adjust to.

“We've been spending a lot of time - Alyssa and I - talking about the other things that she can do for this team as they're running two or three players at her, in terms of getting everybody easier baskets, and she's starting to do that,” said Frese after that game.

Something that Frese has also challenged her young star to do has been working on increasing her shooting range. After attempting just five three pointers last season and coming up empty on all of them, Thomas has made seven of her 26 attempts this year, and has also displayed a consistent long range jumper.

“It's something that Coach B said I needed to work on in order to become a more complete player, so I really worked on getting a three-point shot,” said Thomas.

With a work ethic and determination as strong as hers, there is no telling how high Alyssa Thomas' ceiling is. With her on board for two more years after this, the Terps' future is most certainly bright. For now though, Thomas and her teammates are focused on this year, and with just two games left before the postseason it is crunch time in College Park.

“We've been working a lot on our defense and just really getting after it, because we know that our defense turns into offense,” said Thomas. “We've just got to play hard and stay focused.”

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