CHARLOTTE – Isaiah Thomas, the Washington guard who was named for the former NBA star, says his name is a “blessing.”
“I mean, if I don’t play well, people think, like, ‘Why is his name Isaiah Thomas?’ When I play well, it’s pretty cool. People compare us, even though we’re kind of totally two different players. But it’s pretty cool just to have the name and to be known for the name.”
Thomas was named for former Detroit Pistons star Isiah Thomas because his father lost a friendly bet on the Lakers-Pistons series in the 1989 NBA Finals. Thomas’ mother added an extra “a,” preferring the biblical spelling.
Thomas increasingly is known for his game, rather than his name, and he’ll undoubtedly get a lot of attention, from both the Georgia defense and the CBS announcers, in Friday night’s NCAA tournament game.
The 5-foot-9 Thomas enlarged his reputation by capping a remarkable performance in last week’s Pac-10 tournament with a buzzer-beating shot in overtime to win the championship game over Arizona
“I’ve watched [the replay] probably a thousand times, something like that,” Thomas said Thursday.
The shot came in the 123rd minute (out of a possible 125) that he played in three games over three days. He averaged 19.6 points and 10 assists per game in the tournament.
“He willed his team to a championship,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said Thursday. And added: “I don’t know how many guys are out there that can get you 25 or 30 [points] but can get you 12 assists also. And he’s able to do that.”
Romar’s first thought upon seeing that his team drew Georgia as its opening opponent?
The Bulldogs’ Trey Thompkins.
“First thing I thought of . . . was him,” Romar said. “Immediately I’m thinking, ‘OK, how in the world are we going to guard him?’”
Romar got to know Thompkins while serving as a coach of USA Basketball’s select team, a group of college players who trained against the U.S. national team last summer. Thompkins was on the select team until a minor left foot injury forced him to withdraw.
“I remember him,” Romar said, “because I had not seen Trey play a lot [previously], just a little bit, but was able to watch him play everyday, coach him a little bit and just loved his attitude, just loved his mobility, his versatility. Just a nice stroke. Has great hands. Can step away from the basket and is totally comfortable that way, but yet you give it to him on the block and he can score there, too.”
Of the 68 teams that made the NCAA tournament field, Washington was assigned the longest distance to travel: 2,802 miles from Seattle to Charlotte
Romar voiced no complaints.
“We’ve been inconsistent this year,” he said. “Maybe if we’d done a little better job during our season, we wouldn’t have had to go so far. So we kind of made our bed in that regard.”
Etc.: The Huskies have never won a game in the state of North Carolina. They are 0-8 all-time in the state. . . . Washington averages 83.5 points per game, Georgia 68.8. It’ll be a battle for the tempo. . . . The teams had one mutual opponent — Kentucky. Washington lost 74-67 to the Cats in December in Maui. Georgia split games with Kentucky, winning by seven and losing by six. . . . Thompkins: “I feel like we’re going to be a pressure-free team. I think we’re just going to go out and play … the way we know how to play.” . . . The Georgia-Washington winner will play the North Carolina-Long Island winner on Sunday. Here’s a story from last year by the AJC’s Carroll Rogers on the interesting role Roy Williams, now the North Carolina coach, played in Mark Fox’s career.
More on Friday night’s game: