Not just well, according to Memphis coach Josh Pastner. He's "shooting the daylights out of the ball."
That's the crux of a piece from the Commercial-Appeal's Jason Smith, which took note of Adonis Thomas' dedication to post-practice shooting drills and the benefits Thomas is seeing. The 6-foot-6 sophomore forward won the 3-point shooting contest at Memphis Madness last weekend (beating two of the team's guards along the way) and has apparently excelled to the point where Pastner is now surprised when he misses:
[He] has consistently buried shots in practice drills and scrimmages -- so much so that Pastner pulled him to the side Sunday after Thomas missed two in a row.
"I told him, 'For you to have two short shots like that, it means your legs are tired. Don't stay after practice (to shoot). I want you to stay off your legs,' " Pastner said. "It's because I'm expecting him now, every time that thing is released, that it's going in the hole."
It's not like this marks a major transformation; Thomas, a highly sought-after Memphis native, was already a good shooter as a freshman. He shot 51.5 percent from inside the arc and 40.5 percent outside it, and posted solid adjusted shooting rates in the process (53.9 effective field goal percentage; 55.5 true shooting). But when he wasn't missing games thanks to injury, Thomas was playing slightly out of position at power forward, which allowed Pastner to play Thomas and star small forward Will Barton at the same time. Needless to say, outside shooting was not a priority.
This summer, Barton -- one of the more underrated all-around players in the country last season -- left for the NBA draft. Meanwhile, Pastner acquired help in the frontcourt, namely touted prospect Shaq Goodwin, who will likely play significant minutes in the paint alongside bruising center Tarik Black. (Providing, of course, that Black can stay out of foul trouble. That's a big if). If all goes as planned, Thomas will be able to play what he calls his more natural position, small forward. Given his size and very legitimate NBA ambitions, he's surely right.
For Tigers' opponents, the idea of a guy big, strong and athletic enough to play power forward as a freshman suddenly finding a lethal 3-point shooting stroke just as he moves out to the perimeter has to be frightening. How do you stop that, exactly? For Thomas, it proves something on an individual level. The best players -- the guys who go pro, and make a career of it -- are always the hardest workers. In that regard, even with his best college days ahead of him, Thomas is already ahead of the curve.