Memphis forward Adonis Thomas (8.8 ppg) entered last season amid high expectations. The 6-foot-6, five-star talent was ranked ninth among Recruiting Nation’s Top 100 prospects for 2011.
And the rapid start to his freshman year backed those projections. He recorded double figures in six of his first 16 games with the Tigers. Then he suffered an ankle injury in January that required surgery. Thomas returned in time for March Madness but played limited minutes.
The sophomore recently discussed the injury, his role on the 2012-13 team and last season’s lessons with ESPN.com:
You returned in time to play a few games toward the end of last season after suffering that ankle injury. But you didn’t appear to be 100 percent. What’s the status of the ankle right now as you prepare for this season?
Adonis Thomas: As far as my ankle, it’s 100 percent. My doctor said that it can’t be re-injured. Last year, I only played half of a freshman season. So coming into this season, it’s almost like I’m trying to finish the rest of my freshman season and not even being a sophomore with my injury in January.
How difficult was that experience, considering how well you were playing at that point?
AT: It was real tough. Me and my coach and the staff, we discussed it. They felt like I was coming so far, coming to play and making a big contribution to this team right when we were supposed to start conference play. It was heartbreaking because … I’m a real competitor. I wanted to contribute to this team. Coaches expected big things from me in the season and I just hurt myself in practice. But I learned a lot just from watching. Basically, just where to position myself on the floor, how to be more alert as far as what’s [happening] on the court. It’s a lot of things. How to get to open spots on the court. There were a lot of open spots on the court that guys couldn’t see that I saw.
This team lost Will Barton, who led the program in minutes (35.3), points (18.0) and rebounds (8.0) per game, along with a few other contributors. How will you help this team fill that void?
AT: Will was a great player. He contributed a lot. He did a great job. We even had guys like Wesley Witherspoon (7.2 ppg). [Charles] Carmouche transferred. Those guys did a great job on the team. But we’ve got great players on the team. They’re looking for me to do great things on the court but even if things don’t happen that way, I always can count on the rest of my teammates because the growth of the teammates on this team, as far as contributions, will be real great. We’ve got recruits that have come in and the contributions are going to be even more because these guys are more mature. A lot of these guys, half the team, [are] probably juniors this season, and we have a couple seniors. But it’s going to be a lot more contributions everywhere on the court.
This team led St. Louis in the second half of that NCAA tournament loss in March and then collapsed. What lessons did this group take away from that moment?
AT: It was all about staying poised. With a tournament like the NCAA tournament, things are going to get out of hand. Things are going to go back and forth. Every team is great so you have to stay poised. Everybody has to stay under control. Everybody has to stay together. That’s one of the things we worked on this team over the summer, [which is] going to be great for this team. Everybody is more poised this season. And everybody looks to be more of a leader. If everybody continues to listen to one another, everything will be under control.
You played a variety of roles prior to your injury in January. Has Coach Josh Pastner offered any insight as to how he’ll use you this season?
AT: It’s more balancing my game. I’m sure Coach [will] have some plays where my matchup is going to be smaller, where he’s going to post me a lot in the game until they make a decision about what they need to do. Or [there’s] going to be times where I’m strictly on the wing and being able to attack more and make the outside shot.