MHERST, Mass. - University of Massachusetts basketball head coach Travis Ford announced the addition of guard/forward Brandon Thomas (San Antonio, Texas/Converse Judson H.S./Long Island University) to the recruiting class for the 2005-06 season. Thomas, who signed a National Letter of Intent, has two years of eligibility remaining after playing two seasons at LIU in 2002-03 and 2003-04. A multi-dimensional swingman, Thomas stands 6-6 and weighs 200 pounds, and did not play basketball last season while he attended Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Florida. Thomas joins guards Chris Lowe (Mount Vernon, N.Y.) and James Life (Leigh Acres, Fla.) as signees during Ford's first recruiting period at UMass.
"We are excited to welcome Brandon Thomas to the UMass basketball family," said Ford. "He is an incredibly talented and versatile player. We expect Brandon to be an immediate impact player for the upcoming season. He can play multiple positions including both guard and both forward spots. He is a proven Division I player who will be a factor for us. In addition to being a great basketball player, Brandon is a great person off the court and is committed to being the best student he can be in the classroom."
Thomas felt that UMass was the perfect fit for him after also being recruited by Florida, Notre Dame, DePaul and Florida State as he looked to transfer. "The atmosphere at UMass and in the town of Amherst is great," he said. "The coaches are very classy people who want to win. I was also impressed that they want to build lifelong relationships with their players and want the best for their players."
As a sophomore in 2003-04 with LIU, Thomas led the Blackbirds in scoring at 12.3 points per game. He also hauled down 3.7 rebounds per game playing in 26 games, starting 18 games. From the floor, he was one of the top shooters in the nation, making 51 percent of his shots (124-of-243). Thomas had 14 double-figure scoring games including nine of the last 10 games of the season. All four of his 20-point efforts came in the final eight games of the season including a career-high 30 against St. Francis (N.Y.) on Feb. 21, 2004. He was named the MVP of the Battle of Brooklyn after that game as he made 12-of-17 field goals from the floor. He was the team's top scorer in 10 games during the campaign.
As a freshman in 2002-03, Thomas averaged 6.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. He started the final 23 games and played in 27 games overall for 673 minutes, shooting 41.4 (65-of-157) from the floor. He tallied a season-high 12 points on two occasions, at Belmont (12/29/02) and at Robert Morris (2/8/03).
Thomas played his high school ball at Converse Judson in San Antonio, Texas under coach Mike Wacker. He led his school to the best back-to-back seasons in school history, with a record of 61-11 from 2002-03 (25-3 in district). The Rockets advanced to the State 5A Elite Eight in 2001-02 and to the Final Four in 2000-01 with a 32-4 ledger. As a senior, he was a team captain and led the greater San Antonio area in scoring, averaging 20.5 points per game and 6.8 rebounds per game. He also shot 63 percent from the floor. He was a first team all-region and all-state selection. Thomas was a Super Team and 5A First team choice by the San Antonio Express/News. He registered 21 points in leading his team to victory in the TABC All-Star Game. As a junior, he produced 16.6 points per game and 7.0 rebounds making 65 percent of his shots. He was named to the first team All-Region as a junior.
Brandon Omar Thomas was born on August 17, 1984 in Bitburg, Germany and is the son of Albert and Betty Thomas. His father is a retired Military Chief Master Sargent who served for 28 years. He has three brothers (Andre, Jermaine and Raphel) along with a sister (Michelle).
ith two guards already signed, University of Massachusetts men's basketball coach Travis Ford hoped to get some versatility with his third recruit.
He seems to have found it in Brandon Thomas, the 6-foot-6 swingman who signed a national letter of intent with the Minutemen on Tuesday.
''He's an extremely versatile player. He can play a lot of different positions,'' Ford said. ''He can shoot the ball. He can handle it. He can pass it. He can do a little bit of everything.''
Thomas, who will be a junior next year, began his career at Long Island University. The San Antonio, Texas, native was the Blackbirds' leading scorer as a sophomore averaging 12.3 points per game.
But he left LIU and spent last year at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Fla. He didn't play basketball there to preserve a year of eligibility.
He chose UMass over Florida, New Orleans and Florida State.
''The atmosphere at UMass and in the town of Amherst is great,'' Thomas said in a statement issued by UMass announcing his signing. ''The coaches are very classy people who want to win. I was also impressed that they want to build lifelong relationships with their players and want the best for their players.''
Thomas, 21, was born in Bitburg, Germany, where his father Albert, a former chief master sergeant in the military, was stationed.
Thomas only attempted 40 3-pointers in his final year at Long Island University and made just 11 of them (27.5 percent), but Ford likes his potential as an outside shooter.
''He can really shoot the 3,'' Ford said. ''He's very creative with the ball when he has it. He's a good one-on-one player. He's one of the best finishers around the basket that I've seen.''
Ford said Thomas can be part of UMass' answer at point guard.
''He could easily be our backup point guard,'' Ford said. ''He could be a starting point guard. He's somebody when he has the ball in his hands good things usually happen.''
It's not entirely clear what Thomas' signing means in UMass' recruiting of Saihou Jassey, the 6-foot-7 forward from Kentucky, who visited Amherst last weekend.
Jassey's guardian said the native of Gambia was planning to sign with UMass. But unless Alassane Kouyate elects not to continue his basketball career, the Minutemen are out of scholarships to offer. Ford said he'll likely know Kouyate's status later this week. The redshirt sophomore from Mali has missed all of the past two seasons with knee injuries.
Ford's other two recruits for next season are point guard Chris Lowe of Mount Vernon, N.Y., and wing guard James Life from Manatee Community College.
Thomas has two years of eligibility remaining, meaning that Ford will be busy recruiting for the class of 2007 when Rashaun Freeman, Maurice Maxwell, Artie Bowers, Life and Thomas graduate.
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com.