After getting five-star point guard Emmanuel Mudiay in the Class of 2014, SMU is hoping to land another elite player to lead its 2015 recruiting class.
One of the top targets is five-star big man Elijah Thomas from Lancaster. Thomas has been attending SMU games since Larry Brown took over the program on the Hilltop, and the big man has been amazed by the improvements.
"This was my second time to new Moody. It's pretty big," Thomas said. "I like the set-up a lot. I like how it's not huge, so everybody isn't far away. Fans are close to the court. You can hear them and everything. It's pretty cool."
Thomas, rated as the No. 5 center in 2015, sat behind the SMU bench and watched the Mustangs upset AAC opponent Memphis by 15 in their newly renovated arena. Thomas was impressed with the Mustangs performance against a tough, physical Tigers team.
"I thought it was a great game for SMU," Thomas said. "They played real hard and beat a pretty good team. The fans were crazy, too. I really enjoyed the atmosphere."
Brown and his staff have been recruiting Thomas since they took over at SMU. Right now, Thomas is still considering about 24 schools, but says SMU has made a great impression on him so far.
"I watched them beat Connecticut and Memphis this season already so I know they are pretty good," he said. "I just like the way they play. Everybody shares the ball, and Coach Brown likes to pound the ball inside a lot. That's my style of basketball."
As Thomas talked about why SMU would be a great fit for him, one Mustang fan walked by and yelled, "Chose SMU! Pony up!" at the big man. Thomas says it's that kind of support that makes it hard for him to leave home.
"That stuff is crazy, man," he said. "It would be really hard to turn these people down. I'm home. It's definitely a big thought. It would be hard to tell SMU that I'm not going here."
Thomas won't narrow his list down until the summer, but he is expected to visit Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Texas in the next couple weeks. He says he talks to coaches daily about his recruitment, but SMU assistant coach Ulric Maligi has done a great job of building an actual relationship with him.
"Coach Maligi really cares about me and my family," Thomas said. "He won't just call me to talk SMU. He wants to know about my life and I think that's why I really like him. I've also seen Coach Brown at a few of my games this season, which is humbling. He is one of the best coaches in the country and a great person. I think I can learn a lot from those guys."
Thomas also mentioned the fact he wanted to play with his best friend and fellow SMU target Admon Gilder. Gilder is a three-star shooting guard from Dallas Madison and also a member of the Class of 2015.
"He has come with me both times I visited SMU," Thomas said. "We both really like it and we think it would be cool to play with another. I wouldn't say we are a package deal, because we aren't getting recruited by all the same schools, but we will see."
At 6-foot-9, 250-pounds, Thomas is averaging about 13 points and 10 rebounds per game this season at Lancaster. He is an explosive scorer down low who will overpower opponents with his size and strength.
"I'm always looking to get better and expand my game," he said. "I'm still a junior, so I think I still have a lot of room for improvement. That's how I'm approaching the offseason."
Thomas will be back in Moody this Saturday when the Ponies host No. 7 Cincinnati.
5-Star Big Man Talks SMU Visit
Pony Stampede Top Stories
Game Preview: SMU vs. TempleScott previews SMU's road matchup against Temple to open AAC play on Saturday on ESPNews.
Pony StampedeYesterday at 9:35 AM
Five Players to Watch: SMU vs. TempleDemo breaks down five players to watch for SMU against Temple on Saturday.
Pony StampedeWednesday at 2:24 PM
Pony Stampede Podcast Sept. 28Come inside another edition of the Pony Stampede Podcast for the latest on the SMU hoops team and a TCU game breakdown.
Pony StampedeTuesday at 10:59 PM
2018 offensive lineman has SMU near the topBilly talked with 2018 Highland Park (Tex.) offensive lineman Thomas Shelmire about his recent SMU visit and recruitment.
Pony StampedeTuesday at 9:00 AM