LAS VEGAS -- When you picture a great shooter at work, your mind wanders to a dingy gym where sweat is pouring off the kid as he makes 1,000 shots a day. For some, that’s what’s required to be special at their craft. For others, it’s about maximizing the time they put into it, not counting how many shots they get up.
“I’m not the guy who has to put up shots and count the makes,” Iowa State SG commit Matt Thomas said. “I put in 1-2 hours a day working on different things like the pick-and-roll or coming off screens. I don’t count shots.”
Well, the people in the stands watching the Onalaska, Wis., product are counting shots, and Friday he didn’t miss too many. This can be said with confidence: Matt Thomas is the best shooter I have seen all summer. What sets him apart isn’t the makes, it’s the manner in which he gets his shots. Thomas will make 3-pointers with deep range, and if he’s moved off his spot he can relocate and knock it down. He’s a master craftsman.
It always has been a theory of mine that the elite shooters can tell you their percentages with ease. When quizzed Thomas was no different and said he made 46 percent his last year in high school.
However, to label him a shooter would be to a slight the rest of his game. He is a complete guard with innate feel, an unselfish way and the shoulders to carry the burden of the load if needed. He’s as intelligent a passer as he is shooter. Making the right read and play is of great value to him.
The question inevitably comes up. Why Iowa State?
“They came to two to three workouts in the fall at 6 a.m.,” Thomas said. “They supported me. It’s ISU, it’s a good school and it’s in the Big 12.”
Ames, Iowa, is three-and-a-half hours from home, which is important. What’s also important is timing. Wisconsin took Bronson Koening, and although they’re friends, playing together wasn’t a lock. Iowa State went all-in on Thomas, and he’s wound up being the perfect fit for Fred Hoiberg.
“[Hoiberg] has been where I want to be,” Thomas said. “There’s no other guy I would leave [my development] up to.”
Know this, in the fall Iowa State will sign a shooting guard who is going to raise the profile of the team in the conference and have the ability to etch his name into the Cyclones' record books. Surely Hoiberg is hoping the record that is most impacted comes in the win column.
Austin opts for spring decision
A week ago, wing forward Brandon Austin (Philadelphia/Imhotep Charter) pulled back from his Penn State pledge.
“It was like losing my best friend,” Austin said of the decision. "That relationship with Coach [Pat] Chambers was strong.” The Nittany Lions remain on the list and Chambers is in Las Vegas, watching.
“I’ll just see how they do this season and watch how it goes,” said Austin, who is going to sign in the spring. Baylor, Florida, UCLA, Temple and Ohio State will also keep tabs on him.
Hard for Jenkins to watch
Kris Jenkins (Washington, D.C./Gonzaga) is a cheerleader in Las Vegas. With a cast on a busted-up thumb, he’s relegated to sideline duty. The ESPN 100 prospect is in good spirits (and stayed in good shape) even if he’s chomping at the bit to play.
Many colleges have come to the games D.C. Assault plays just to be seen by Jenkins. “It’s weird but I’m impressed that they would make that effort," Jenkins said. "They’re there seeing me in a game I can’t participate in.”
The South Carolina native, who lives with Nate Britt in Washington, D.C., isn’t sure which residence to call home. He’s also not sure of his collegiate residence. Xavier and Miami will receive official visits. “The way they’ve been recruiting me, I need to go in-depth with those two programs,” Jenkins said.
South Carolina, Clemson, Rutgers and George Washington, four schools from areas that at least are “home-like” to Jenkins, are represented on his list. This fall, the biggest change at home deals with chores.
Jenkins’ housemate, Britt, shuffles off to Oak Hill for his final year. “The worst thing to come of that is I have to do more chores," Jenkins said. "That’s the worst part.”
Madison on verge of being a steal
Tyler Madison (Columbiana, Ala./Selby County) is one of those guys who strikes you as being a level above where he’s being recruited. For me, that means the inevitable phone call a few years down the road from a coach he hung 25 points on: “Who’s that guy and why wasn’t he ranked?” Tulane, UTEP, UAB, Murray State and Samford have it figured out. Tennessee is creeping on the outer edges, evaluating his moves.
Madison’s a big wing and a tough one. He looked up to 7-foot-5 Mamadou Ndiaye and had intentions of jumping over and through him. He didn’t make it, but he tried. “I had two older brothers and you had to fight,” Madison said. “They’d beat me up.”