Feb. 28, 2005
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Doug Thomas has had an admittedly long journey to Iowa City. The trip included stops at places as large as his hometown of Pasadena, CA, and as small as Creedmoor, NC, population 2,232.
But now that he’s in Iowa City – right in the middle of both extremes in more ways than one. Thomas says he’s happy to be a Hawkeye.
“I’m glad I waited and got where I am,” he said. “The coaches work with you, and it’s a great situation.”
Thomas has seen action in 26 of the Hawkeyes 27 games. He’s averaging 4.5 points and and the same number of rebounds in about 15 minutes of action per game. Thomas scored nine points and grabbed five rebounds in Iowa’s 78-56 win last Saturday at Penn State.
Just four years ago, Thomas was “hanging with [his] boys on the streets” of Pasadena and Inglewood, CA, where school and basketball took backseat to anything else. And as Thomas confesses, “that would have put [him] in jail or dead.”
Thomas’ extra curricular activities caused his grades to drop, which forced him to transfer across Los Angeles to Inglewood High School for his senior year.
“I think Doug gives everybody a lot of energy, especially the crowd. He has some pretty nasty dunks. He gets the team and the crowd going.”
Iowa’s Adam Haluska on teammate Doug Thomas
By that time, however, Thomas already knew that basketball was going to be his ticket to the future.
In his first game – his first shot, even – playing varsity at Pasadena as a sophomore, Thomas came off the bench, took two steps over his defender, and laid down one of the biggest dunks of his life.
“The whole gym went crazy,” Thomas recalls. “I realized that is how I’m going to get points.”
After his first game at Iowa, against Western Illinois, Thomas demonstrated that same skill with the showy shot, getting three dunks off the bench and leading the team with nine rebounds.
“If I can get the ball and I can see the line, why take a 15-foot jump shot if I can take two more shots? Of course, everybody loves some shots, but the crowd loves same show time, so that’s what I’m going to give them,” Thomas said after the game.
Thomas has a lot of moxie.
“I think Doug gives everybody a lot of energy, especially the crowd,” Iowa guard Adam Haluska said. “He has some pretty nasty dunks. He gets the team and the crowd going.”
Getting the crowd into the game is something Thomas says he’s always enjoyed.
“I just feel the eruption of the crowd,” he say, “and that’s why I’m pumping my hand so much (after I make a play). If we get it loud, the team starts to play harder and roll together.”
And if dunks and personality alone could get a kid through school, Thomas would have had the highest marks of anybody. But that’s not reality, and the truth hurt Thomas once again as he had to take another year of high school prep school in North Carolina in order to qualify for college.
“It was a matter of me wanting to do it,” Thomas says. “I had to get my grades up, because I had to play basketball.”
After prep school, Thomas spent two years at Southeastern Community College in Burlington, IA, where he helped his team to a 69-5 record, averaging 10 points per game and almost seven rebounds.
The community college was his final stop before Iowa City, which is also going to be another two-year stint.
But why go through so much to play the college game in this day of NBA players out of high school?
“Growing up, coaches told me to go to school first,” he said. “They beat that into my head, and I’m glad I went to school.”
Thomas also has an important reason to stay in school: his 3-year-old son, Douglas Thomas III.
The toddler already takes after father. He has a child’s size 12 shoe, and despite being born two weeks early, he still weighed in at nine pounds. Thomas says “D3,” as his son is affectionately known, helped get him focused on the game he loved and also stay in school to set a good example.
“He has kind of motivated me,” Thomas says. “I’ve been blessed by God to have a chance to be a dad.”
The travel, though, has been rough on Thomas, who last saw his son in August before school started. But his girlfriend of five years, who takes care of their child back in Pasadena, has learned to cope with the life of a basketball player.
“In 11th grade, when I transferred to Inglewood, she was crying when I was leaving, and I was like, `I’m just going across the highway,'” Thomas recalls. “It’s kind of a funny relationship, but one day it’s going to be all right because we’ll have a better future together and I’ll be doing something I love.”