- Paul Biancardi, Basketball Recruiting
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Coach Josh Pastner and Memphis have done it again by keeping elite prospect Adonis Thomas (Memphis, Tenn./Melrose) at home to play his college ball. However, it took a little help from fellow local talent and Memphis alum Penny Hardaway, who put together a video directed at Thomas, during the Tigers' Midnight Madness.
"It did impact my decision," said Thomas, who chose Memphis over Tennessee, Florida, Arkansas and UCLA. "It was a privilege to listen to Penny Hardaway talk about what the city of Memphis and the University of Memphis meant to him."
Through sheer work ethic Thomas has taken his game from a well-regarded, undersized 4 man with an outstanding motor to the No. 9-ranked player in the country. He is one of the top students at his high school with a 4.0 GPA and embodies the attributes of a true student-athlete. Thomas is the kind of player college coaches love to work with. He is motivated to succeed in the classroom, comes from a winning program and understands the dedication it takes to be an elite-level player. He is a worker with an infectious positive attitude and will have an immediate impact as a freshman.
"Adonis has an insatiable desire to improve both on and off the court," Melrose coach Jermaine Johnson said. "He is never satisfied and is a great leader, as well as a selfless person."
Although he would excel in an up-tempo style of play, his game is the type that can adjust to fit any system. Thomas' versatility along with his combination of quickness, athleticism and intelligence are what make him such a difficult matchup. He's too strong and athletic for small forwards to guard, and he's too skilled and quick for bigs to handle. What separates him from the pack is his relentless, high-energy motor. He never seems to give up or give in.
He has the ability to swing momentum with hustle plays, inspire his teammates and electrify the crowd. When you watch him compete, it is amazing how many areas of the game he impacts. Thomas will capitalize on putbacks if he isn't blocked out, dive headfirst for loose balls, hunt down long rebounds and even chase down his opponent who thinks he has an uncontested layup. He can beat most defenders with a straight-line drive but needs to work on making a dribble move to be more effective off the bounce. His jumper is solid from 15 to 17 feet, but he must expand that range as time goes on.
Landing Thomas is a major statement for Pastner because for the second year in a row he was able to land the top prospect from the state of Tennessee and continue the strong tradition at Memphis.
Paul Biancardi, who has been a head coach and assistant on NCAA tournament teams, is the national director of basketball recruiting. He is also one the voters for the McDonald's All-American Game and Gatorade Player of the Year. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.