"We're 8-0 and a major reason for that has been the play of Johnny," said coach Johnson. "He has been playing great. Johnny is averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds for us, and he is doing everything he can to help us win games."
Thomas, a 6-foot-5, 210-pound wing, committed to NC State this spring as Sidney Lowe's first commitment in the class of 2007. He played at a few AAU tournaments with the North Carolina Gaters, but coach Johnson believes Thomas improved the most mainly because of his tremendous work ethic.
"Johnny has benefited from playing against better people, but his game has improved from working on his game individually," said Johnson. "He works so hard on all aspects of his game, and that has truly helped him become a better basketball player.
"We use him in a variety of ways. He can play inside for us, but we also have him bringing the ball up the court against pressure because our point guard is out with a foot injury."
While discussing Thomas, coach Johnson couldn't help but rave about the job Sidney Lowe has done in his first season at NC State.
"I think coach Lowe has done an excellent job," he stated. "I think he's done a wonderful job, and they are playing the style of basketball they need to play and I think he wants to play.
"His best player is out hurt right now, and he was able to beat Michigan and nearly defeat Virginia. I love some of the sets he's running, and he coaches to the strengths of his players.
"You have to be impressed with what coach Lowe has been able to do. He's organized his staff, he's in every game, and he is doing it all without his best player. Grant has done a great job, but I believed Atsur was the one player they couldn't afford to lose, and they are still winning games. I attribute it all to how good of a coach Sidney Lowe is."
Johnson isn't really surprised. He is familiar with all of Lowe's assistant coaches, and one of them is his former star point guard, Justin Gainey. Gainey started at point guard for four years at NC State under Herb Sendek after a very good high school career at Day High.
"NC State has a great staff," said Johnson. "They've got a couple of former head coaches in Monte Towe and Pete Strickland, and I think Larry Harris and Quentin Jackson are very good as well.
"I'm so happy for Justin. He had a chance to learn under a wonderful coach in Herb Sendek and is now getting a chance to do the same under another great coach in Sidney Lowe. Justin is a quality individual, and I couldn't be happier for him. I know he wanted to get into coaching, and I'm glad he's got this opportunity. He was a great player, and I think he will end up being an even better coach."
What does Johnson think Thomas will add to the NC State roster in 2007?
"Johnny will be able to add more depth and athleticism to the rotation," he said. "Johnny is an excellent athlete... he's the most athletic kid I've coached in thirty years. He has very good basketball skills.
"With him coming in with the kid from Mt. Zion and the kid from Georgia, NC State is adding three very, very good basketball players. I've seen those other two play, and they are really good. I think just adding those three to the roster will be very beneficial to coach Lowe and what he wants to do."
In talking with coach Johnson, you can feel how proud he is of Johnny Thomas.
"Johnny was just inducted into our National Honor Society," said coach Johnson. "He has an A average during his time here, and I'm proud of him for being able to come in and do what he's done.
"The best thing about Johnny is if he gets an A- he's going to be mad. His best characteristic is he doesn't settle for anything and always wants to be the best. He goes beyond what is asked of him, and he will push himself both academically and athletically."