From community college to UAF men’s basketball; meet Willie Thomas III

Published: Oct. 15, 2020 at 7:16 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Alaska Nanooks men’s basketball program have added quite a few new faces to the team during the offseason, including that of 6-6 forward Willie Thomas III from Tacoma, Washington.

“It’s really interesting just because I’ve never really experienced the coldness before this is my first year at a university. ” said Thomas III. "Been to community colleges last two years so it’s just a really good experience of getting out of my state.”

After spending two years on the Community College level at Skagit Valley and McLennan, Thomas III makes his jump to the Division II level playing for the Blue and Gold. During his time with the Skagit Valley Cardinals, Thomas III turned in an impressive 15.8 ppg and 6.7 rpg shooting on 49.6% from the floor in his sophomore season.

Thomas' arrival should help the Nanooks in the defensive categories as they ranked last in rebound margin at -6.3 and scoring defense giving up 83.2 points a night in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.

“Grabbing rebounds are very important because it helps you either get another offensive possession or make sure your opponent doesn’t get another offensive possession because if they get that, you worked that 30 seconds just to give it right back,” said Thomas III on the importance of rebounding. “So I think that’s really important playing defense and getting rebounds.”

Thomas joins an Alaska squad that had their best season since days of Joe Slocum during the 2015-2016 season. Last year the Nanooks took the sixth seed in the GNAC tournament behind the stellar play of the defending conference player of the year in Shadeed Shabazz. Thomas III got to see Shabazz grow as a player in Washington during the Tacoma and Seattle rivalry games. Thomas III had high praise for Shadeed’s game saying he can score in some weird ways.

“It’s really amazing because I watched Shadeed growing up because he’s from Seattle I’m from Tacoma,” said Thomas III on his opportunity to play alongside Shabazz. “He’s a real special player. He scores in many weird ways like no matter what you do he’s going to get a bucket."

Willie says he’s not looking forward to the extreme cold that Fairbanks is accustomed to, but he is ready to get the season going in January. Thomas III is studying mechanical engineering at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

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