Jacob Thomas scores 30 in front of Saul Smith

Jacob Thomas, a 6-foot-3 junior from Columbia Heights, scored 30 points in front of Gopher assistant coach Saul Smith in a matchup of two of Minnesota's top guards. Thomas paced Columbia Heights as they knocked off the #1 Class AA team 83-79. GoldenSports.Net recently caught up with Hylander head coach Willie Braziel to learn the latest on Thomas and his recruitment.

Jacob Thomas made five three-pointers and was a perfect seven of seven from the line as the Hylanders rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to defeat St. Bernard's 83-78. The Bulldogs' star guard Jordair Jett had 32 points in the loss.

Thomas is averaging 21.5 points per game this season. He scored 41 points against Robbinsdale Cooper, had 40 points versus Rosemount, 37 in a contest against St. Louis Park and 30 points against defending Class AAAA champion Minnetonka. He has scored in double figures in all 19 games. Columbia Heights is off to a 11-8 start and is 9-5 in the tough North Suburban Conference, which features Benilde-St. Margaret's, the defending Class AAA champion, Spring Lake Park, Fridley and Robbinsdale Cooper, who finished fourth in Class AAAA last year.

Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith and director of operations Joe Esposito attended Thomas' game versus Cooper and associate head coach Ron Jirsa was at the Spring Lake Park Game. Columbia Heights head coach Willie Braziel said that the Gophers have been showing their interest in Thomas.

"They send a lot of letters," he said. "We've been to a couple of games. Jacob is really interested in going there. They have not officially offered and Jake has not verballed. But, Jake has every intention in going to the "U." That's just the way it is. Unfortunately, if they don't offer him a scholarship, I think that they may have him as a damn walk-on (jokingly). I think that is just where he wants to go. He gets letters from everywhere. UTEP, Creighton, Texas, Wisconsin. Everybody is sending this kid letters. I think that is going to triple or quadruple before it is over with. I feel bad for the coaches. All the Dakotas, Iowa State, etc. I don't know if Jake has ever filled out the cards on any of these people, but they still just send the letters. Several of them call me and I try to be respectful to them and they always ask who is also interested in him and the first team I say is the University of Minnesota. I'm hoping that they get the hint.

"I'm not trying to waste their time or their recruiting efforts or money because Jacob Thomas is not going to go anywhere but the University of Minnesota. I don't know if they want him, but they would sure like him. Put it this way. I've watched every Gopher game this year, whether on tape, Big Ten Network or in person. The Gophers do not have a scorer now as good as Jacob Thomas period. They do not have one.

"Jacob would average 20 something with a nice point guard. I think his problem is, I have Jacob doing double-duty pretty much. When I play certain teams, I have to play him at point guard. Last night, I had Jacob Thomas at point, because you can't box and one on him. As a matter of fact, he has had his biggest points nights when they tried to do the box-and-one deal. My recommendation is 'don't do it.' He played well last night."

Thomas averaged 21.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.1 assists per game last season. He shot 41% from the field, 34% from three-point range and 72% from the line. The Hylanders finished 13-14, a big improvement over a 4-21 mark the previous season.

Braziel previously told GoldenSports.Net that Thomas had caught the Gopher coaches' eyes.

"The Gophers wanted to see him handle the ball," he said. "He has got to get stronger, but he can shoot the lights out. He won four or five games by himself. He is a good kid, a likable kid who comes from a good family. He wants to attend the 'U' and likes the 'U.'"

Thomas played for the Howard Pulley 16-and-under AAU team and will move up to the top 17-and-under team next spring.

Braziel previously said that his star guard has plenty of strengths as a player.

"He has great instincts and a wonderful shot. He has a great stroke and a fluid motion in his jump shot," Braziel said.

Braziel said that Thomas is working hard to improve himself as a player.

"He needs to improve defensively. He took plays off as a sophomore," he said.

His strong play last year is made even more impressive by the fact that he did not play as a freshman after transferring from Cooper.

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