Cam Thomas is eager to prove he’s more than a scorer I LSU star opens up about meeting with Tom Thibodeau, Knicks

LSU star Cam Thomas is an elite three-level scorer. Will the New York Knicks take a flier on him after a solid workout and meeting?

Cam Thomas is an irreverent scorer. He has irrational confidence reminiscent of the late Kobe Bryant, a cold-blooded scoring assassin in the NBA who went down to become an all-time great.

It’s not hard to see why he wears No. 24 because he grew up idolizing the late Laker legend. Now, he has shifted his eyes on Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker, a known Black Mamba disciple on top of his other current favorite NBA players.

“Throughout the NBA playoffs, I’ve been watching Devin Booker,” Thomas said on Monday during his NBA Draft media availability.

He’s been paying attention to his footwork, the way he glides in the perimeter, and creates space for himself and others. He watches how he launches his threes.

“I like to pick up some of his moves in the midrange and just really trying to look at his game because we play very much alike and similar,” Thomas said.

Aside from Booker, he’s watched a ton of Kyrie Irving and James Harden and a little bit of Bradley Beal. “I really watch those guys a lot and take from them the most,” Thomas said.

This draft class’ microwave scorer has paid attention to the star bucket getters while scouts have often compared him to Lou Williams, a role player whose instant offense off the bench won him three Sixth Man of the Year awards. While it has some weight to it after emerging as a prolific scorer in LSU and nothing much else, Thomas says he’s more than just a three-level scorer.

“I feel like those analyses were totally wrong. It’s just the system I was in. I feel like nobody really knows the room for [my growth] as a player. I’ll just keep going and prove them wrong. I feel like I can do that [in the NBA] because I’ve done it before,” Thomas said.

As LSU’s go-to guy, Thomas led all NCAA freshmen with a 23.3-point scoring average. It was the fourth-highest scoring average by a first-year player on the LSU team behind only Pete Maravich as a sophomore in 1967-68 (43.8), Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf as a freshman in 1988-89 (30.2), and Bob Pettit as a sophomore in 1951-52 (25.5). His 22 20-point games were the most 20-point games of any LSU player since Shaquille O’Neal in 1992. He had 16 games of at least 25 points, the most by an SEC freshman in the one-and-done era or since 2006.

But despite those accolades, Thomas isn’t viewed as a lottery pick because of his perceived tunnel vision. He averaged 3.4 rebounds and just 1.4 assists.

Thomas insists he has more to show, and that was just a product of the system he was in college.

“[I wasn’t able to show] really playing without the ball in my hand. I feel like I can do that at the next level,” Thomas said. “Again, getting my teammates involved. I really didn’t show that in LSU because my role is to be the primary scorer. I feel like when I get to the NBA, I have to show that first and then build from there.”

Thomas has always been a scoring machine. He left Oak Hill Academy as the program’s all-time leading scorer surpassing Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. But buried under those eye-popping 26.2-point and 31.5-point scoring averages in his two years there were the identical 3.4 assists he dished out per game.

“I feel really good about [my playmaking],” Thomas said. “Being a scorer kind of opens up for me to make plays for others because everybody worries about me putting the ball in the basket and scoring. Me just having that skill helps up my other skills as far as making plays for others. I just try to attack and get quick buckets.”

Sure, some teams need bucket getters. One of them is the Knicks, who struggled to score when they reached the NBA playoffs for the first time in eight years.

Thomas had the Knicks’ attention. He’s one of the many prospects they invited at their Tarrytown practice facility in New York. But they’re also one of the few teams Thomas met ahead of the NBA Draft. So far, Thomas has met with the Lakers, Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors, Indiana Pacers, Charlotte Hornets, and the Memphis Grizzlies aside from the Knicks.

“I met with the Knicks, which was my second workout like a few weeks ago. It went really well,” Thomas said. “I see myself fitting in with the Knicks because I was told they needed a bucket getter, a player who can make plays at the end of the shot clock in a game, it’s just a closer type so I see myself coming in, being the scorer I am, I can help the team.”

Thomas can provide an instant boost to a Knicks offense that relied heavily on Julius Randle last season. The LSU standout came away from that meeting, believing he could have a bright future with the Knicks if ever they pick him.

“Coach Thibs was in the meeting so we talked about the good stuff and it was really a good conversation. I don’t know everybody. But it was a good dialogue.” Thomas said. “I feel like I can fit in really well because he believes I can fit in his system and I feel like I can shoot so… we’ll see on Thursday.”

As he prepares for the NBA Draft on Thursday, Thomas continues to work on his game in between the teams’ workouts trying to improve on everything from scoring to rebounding and playmaking. But on top of that, he’s got two priorities.

“[I’m] just trying to get into shape as much as possible. You’re never in too much shape so I’d like to be in top shape so I can be on the court without being tired. Trying to lock in on the ball defensively, I keep working on that and just those two things. I wouldn’t call those weaknesses because it’s just mental stuff,” he said.

Thomas is a certified bucket getter, but he’s eager to prove he has more to offer.

While he has the late Laker legend’s scoring instincts, his irrational confidence comes from his strong work ethic and military discipline cultivated by his mother, Leslie Thomas, an army veteran.

“I put in a lot of work and for how much I’ve put in, I should be confident,” Thomas said.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

EXCLUSIVE: Cole Anthony’s high school coach hopes former star ends up at New York Knicks

Cole Anthony, New York Knicks

Archbishop Molloy High School has produced two of the best points guards to come out of New York in two-time NBA champion Kenny Smith and Kenny Anderson.

The traditional New York high school basketball powerhouse hopes that Cole Anthony, the son of former New York Knicks first-round pick Greg Anthony, would be next in line.

Anthony’s rise started in Molloy, where he starred for three years before transferring to Oak Hill Academy for his senior year. He became the first freshman point guard to start in the school history immediately, and he almost led them to the city championship in his sophomore year.

“He’s a leader.  He immediately comes into the room and takes over,” Molloy coach Mike McCleary told Empire Sports Media.

“Even as a freshman, we had a strong seed class, and while he wasn’t the captain of that team, he was still a leader on that team.  By the time he’s a sophomore, he was already the captain of the team,” he added.

While Anthony became the most hyped high school player to have come out of New York in recent years, his stock considerably dropped after the North Carolina Tar Heels experienced their first losing season under Roy Williams in 18 years with him as their lead guard.

Anthony missed significant time due to a knee injury, but he was still able to lead the Tar Heels in scoring with 18.5 points per game.  However, his inconsistent and inefficient shot-making (38% from the field) and playmaking (4 assists against 3.5 turnovers per game) became a cause of concern.

McCleary believes his former star’s struggles in college is just an aberration.

“One of the things that hurt him this year at North Carolina is that they were not as talented as the previous years.  And he was clearly their best player and that left Cole very exposed to try to do too much.  But if he has other weapons on his team, I think he’s more than capable of using those weapons and being very successful as a point guard,” McCleary said.

At 6-3, Anthony has some size concerns, but the NBA Playoffs have shown us that small elite guards (6’0 Kemba Walker, 6’1 Donovan Mitchell, 6’2 Damian Lillard, and 6’4 Jamal Murray) have so much value in the league.

“I definitely think that’s gonna be the challenge for him but he’s a great athlete as they all are in the NBA.  Size is something that hurts him a little bit but he’s very competitive, a smart kid and I think he’ll pay close attention to the scouting reports to be able to use his intelligence, his skills, and athleticism to be an effective defender,” McCleary said.

He even adds that Anthony would be perfect for the modern NBA due to the fact that “the lane is so wide open now because of the three-point threat and that might offer him more opportunities to get to the rim and open up opportunities for his teammates.”

Anthony, who is modeling his game after Russel Westbrook, according to McCleary, has a quick first step and loves to attack the rim. In fact, Anthony averaged 5.8 free throw attempts in college, which McCleary believes could translate well in the pace-and-space NBA.

However, while it has been reported that the Knicks have extensively scouted Anthony, the team is divided on the polarizing prospect.

Some within the organization is not a fan of Anthony and believe his stock dipped because he was hyped and got exposed in college.

“He’s talented, but he doesn’t have a history of winning,” the source told Empire Sports Media.

But there are also Anthony fans within the organization.  Just like Allan Houston, the Knicks’ Special Assistant to the General Manager, who even commented fire emojis to Anthony’s recent beach workout, posted by one of his trainers, Mike Atkinson.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

🏖 🤫⏰❗️ @the_cole.anthony #sportsperformance #trainingday

A post shared by Mike Atkinson (@mike__atkinson_) on Sep 4, 2020 at 4:36am PDT

While Atkinson declined to be interviewed for Anthony’s pre-Draft workout process, he told Empire Sports Media:

“Cole will be a great addition to any organization. I’m confident in that.”

It’s a fact that Anthony hasn’t won a championship in high school and college, but he’s been part of the gold medal team in the 2018 FIBA-U18 Americas, and he was named to the all-tournament team.

During his successful high school run, he’s led Molloy to the Catholic High School Athletic Association finals (though they got upset by the fifth seed team Cardinal Hayes) and semifinals.  In his lone year at Oak Hill, the decorated academy that produced Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant, he averaged a triple-double in leading the Warriors to the semifinals of the GEICO High School Nationals. He was named Player of the Year for both his success in basketball and academics, then he collected all the MVP awards in the McDonald’s All-American Game, Jordan Brand Classic, and Nike Hoop Summit and had a Defensive Player of the Year award from Nike’s EYBL.

“He’s a super talent.  I think if you put him in the right situation, he can be extremely successful. I think he could be a leader because of his talent and personality and work ethics,” McCleary said.

Anthony’s talent is undeniable, and his fall in the Draft boards could be a boon for the Knicks who are looking for a lead guard.  The polarizing prospect could still be available by the time they pick at No.8.

If McCleary has his way, he wants his former star to stay home and get drafted by the Knicks.

“I think he’ll fit well wherever he goes because his father who was in the NBA has always preached to him about being a good teammate, not only about being a good player and what it takes and all that stuff because it’s already a given in his case.  But his father has been telling him about being a good basketball player and being a good teammate and to the other people in the team,” McCleary said.

“And I suspect that these are lessons well learned because he responds to his father very well and he has a lot of respect for his father. And I think he’ll be just fine and become a very good lead guard in the next level and hopefully, that’s the case (in New York) so I get to see him more,” he added.