A Class of Her Own
ACC Player of the Year, Aylssa Thomas, is just getting started.
by Christian Mordi / @mordi_thecomeup
The pressure has been on Alyssa Thomas from the day she stepped on campus at the University of Maryland. As she walks to class, students and teachers alike constantly tell her that she reminds them of former Terrapins star Marisa Coleman.
Career totals of 2,100 points and 1,000 rebounds, and a budding WNBA career are plateaus we would expect Thomas would want to reach, but the Pennsylvania native only cares to have two things in common with Coleman at the end of her career: Wearing No. 25 and bringing a National Title to the Maryland.
So the reigning ACC Player of the Year works feverishly, not in fear of escaping the shadow of a former great, but carving her own legacy on the program. Recently, Alyssa Thomas sat down with SLAMonline to discuss the importance of film study, why Maryland was the perfect fit for her, how she expanded her game this summer and more.
SLAM: Alyssa, you were a top high school prospect and a Parade All-American. Why Maryland over the host of other schools that offered?
Alyssa Thomas: I didn’t want to go far from home and Maryland really fit the bill of the type of school I wanted to be a part of.
SLAM: I heard you say once that it was the “family atmosphere” that drove you to Maryland. Do you still feel that bond now and is it that trust level that gives you such comfort on the court?
AT: Absolutely. I trust everyone on this team, we are all extremely close and I see them like family members. We all hang together and bond off the court as well.
SLAM: You were recognized by pennlive.com as one of the decade’s best high school athletes in Pennsylvania. Did you feel tested that much in high school?
AT: I feel like I played at a great school where they challenged us schedule-wise with good competition. Our coach made it an issue to get us in tournaments where we would be pushed.
SLAM: Your freshman year, you were ACC Rookie of the Year and Second-Team All-ACC. Why do you think you made the transition so smooth? Was it the style of play at Maryland?
AT: I believe it was the style of play and the coaching that helped me grow fast. They told me I couldn’t act like a freshman and pushed me to step in and make an impact.
SLAM: You guys have lost stellar point guard Brene Moseley. How has coach molded the gameplan to help with the loss of Brene, and who has stepped up in her absence?
AT: Coach mentioned to us that we would be faced with adversity. Yeah, we have been hit hard early but it gives our team more experience as a whole and more confidence as they step in and fill that role. Laurin Mincy and Chloe (Pavlech) have really stepped up and made a difference for us at the point guard spot.
SLAM: You guys actually have another teammate who suffered a similar injury, Laurin Mincy. Many say it takes a year to recover and another to get the confidence back. What are your thoughts on Mincy and her importance to the team?
AT: I totally agree with what you said, I feel like just now, she is really coming back into her own now also. I played against her on the AAU circuit and I have seen her at her best. Each day she is getting stronger. Right now we have her stepping in at the point guard spot which is an adjustment, but once she gets comfortable there, she can really do great things for us there with her skill set.
SLAM: Your second year you made a huge jump to ACC Player of the Year and All-American. What elements did you work on to add to your game?
AT: Freshman year, I feel you come in and you play fast, you really don’t understand the game yet. My sophomore year, I got more control with my game and learned how to read defenses.
SLAM: So you are big on studying film?
AT: Yeah. Coach Chinn, he is really big in the NBA and how they handle guys like Paul Pierce or Rondo for example. He will show us clips from those guys, we see what they do and then step on the court and work on those moves. This really helps take our game to another level.
SLAM: Why No. 25? Any significance behind that one?
AT: It has always been my number since I was younger. A family thing, my dad’s number and I just kept it going. That is all I got coming into Maryland. We wear the same number and have a similar build. It is an honor to be compared to someone who has done so much for Maryland Basketball.
SLAM: Your little brother has some game also, as he plays for Wake Forest. How does it feel for you both to be splashed all over SportsCenter?
AT: It was a little competition going back and forth, and then he told me he was going to outdo me when I first was on SportsCenter, and then he called me when he got No. 1. It is a cool little thing we have going.
SLAM: What was the best piece of advice you gave him to properly prepare for the next level?
AT: Don’t come in and play like a freshman. You are more than ready, you have been taught well and you can contribute.
SLAM: So you ladies have one of the toughest schedules out. You play at Nebraska this year, Delaware and UConn. Which one are you looking forward to the most?
AT: The UConn game due to what they have accomplished. The history behind them and to go in there and play against them is a huge honor within itself.
SLAM: That matchup against Elena Delle Donne will be huge. Do you look forward to getting your number called as the one who will guard her primarily?
AT: We did play them last year and we just through a lot of different looks at her. It’s a team effort when you play someone as good of her.
SLAM: What do you think is the hardest facet of the game to guard?
AT: She is like a Dirk Nowitzki. She has a really good shot and even when you contest it, she can change directions and hit you with a fade away. She is a tough cover.
SLAM: At 6-2, you can play either forward spot. You have the skills to put it on the floor and post up. Where do you see yourself playing on the next level?
AT: Most likely the 3, but it really doesn’t matter. I will play wherever they put me.
SLAM: What were some things you worked on this year offensively to add to the repertoire?
AT: I feel I already have a solid mid-range, but I worked on expanding my range to the three-point line to keep them honest and not allow them so sag off of me.
SLAM: Do you think your strength gives you an added element to your game that opponents cannot match?
AT: I agree. I think my strength gives me an advantage against the guards, but I feel I’m quick also, so if you put a post player on me I can attack them off the dribble as well.
SLAM: Last one: Love and Basketball, or He Got Game?
AT: He Got Game, of course [laughs].