Before the NBA Draft, Bobby Marks met with LSU’s Cam Thomas twice as part of his side gig: He helps Draft prospects get ready for their interviews with NBA teams. He noted the other day that he’s helped more than 200 prospects get ready for the most important interview of their young lives.
His session with Thomas was memorable said the Nets assistant GM turned ESPN insider.
“I’ll sit with them for an hour or two,” explained Marks on Instagram Friday. “We’ll got through a mock interview so that when they’re meeting with teams, they’re prepared for some of he questions.”
Marks described Thomas as “an interesting player, an interesting person.”
“Raised by a single mom, a military mom. So thank her for her service. No male figure in his household. Disciplined. But what I think teams was a little bit of a turnoff for certain teams is that there’s a certain sense of confidence, maybe over confidence, maybe a certain sense of arrogance.”
That personality trait didn’t turn Marks off. He appreciated it for what it is.
“I just think he has a major chip on his shoulder,” noted Marks. “because he sees all these players that were ahead of him in the mock drafts heading into the Draft. He was projected to go in the 20’s and we went at 27. I just think he’s got a major edge to him in a good way and every team needs scoring off the bench like we see in Utah with Jordan Clarkson. For a rookie, he’s got — and excuse me — a lot of shit to him in a good way. I mean he he could be ... I mean he could give Brooklyn some minutes off the bench...
“I really like the kid. He knows who he is. Yeah. He needs to get better defensively but he is one confident young man,” said Marks, inserting a pause between each of the last four words. “As I said the night of the Draft, when we get to February and we’re announcing these rising sophomores, rising freshmen to play at the All-Star Weekend, don’t be surprised if Cam Thomas’s name is mentioned among the players. He’s a good one, particularly where Brooklyn picked at 27.”
What Bobby Marks saw in those pre-draft sessions is now on full display in Las Vegas. Through three games of Summer League action, Thomas leads all the members of the 2021 rookie class in scoring at 24.0 and in trips to the free throw line at 9.3. And no one has hit bigger shots. He dominated in the Nets comeback Wednesday vs. the Bucks, scoring nine points in the last 2:45 of the fourth, then hit 3-pointers to tie the Wizards game in the first overtime and to win it in the second, sudden death, OT, finishing with 31.
“For the winning basket it was just iso, like Dyckman, just one-on-one, beat your man. I lost the ball. I seen the clock, I seen it was at 02.25 when I looked at it, so I was like, ‘I’ve gotta hurry up and get a shot off,’ said a smiling Thomas. “I went to shot that I always make and I always work on, the one-legged three. As soon as it left my hands I knew it was good,” said Thomas matter-of-factly in the locker room, post-game.
Before that, while still on the court, he was more concise. “That’s what big-time players do!” Thomas told Monica McNutt of ESPN. “Big-time players make plays. I wanted to win so bad I wasn’t going to let my team lose.”
Yeah, yeah, it’s Summer League. Yeah, yeah it’s early, but one thing has remained true about the 19-year-old throughout the course of his career: he’s very confident he can get buckets when needed. At his high school, whose alumni include Jerry Stackhouse, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant, he holds the record for most points per game in a season, putting up 31.5 his senior year. Last year, he led all freshman with a 23.0 scoring mark while at LSU. Now, he’s leading his Draft class in scoring in Las Vegas.
His head coach, Nets assistant Jordan Ott had a hard time Thursday coming up with adjectives to describe his play before settling on “ultimate gamer.” another tribute to that confidence.
“Cam, I mean, I don’t even know where to start,” Ott told the media after the Wizards game. “Ultimate gamer, young guy, finds a way often. … Even just getting to the free-throw line when nothing is there, the ability to get to the free-throw line. For a young guy, it’s pretty incredible.
“I’m not sure the words ‘savvy, crafty,’ [are enough]. Just finds a way. That’s how we phrased it. You can see him step-by-step-by step, and a big jump. Unbelievable down the stretch the shots he hit.”
Thomas returned the praise.
“It’s been great. All the coaches have been helping me, always encouraging me, always challenging me to be better, always challenging me to do stuff on the defensive end, rebound, and this last game just told me to go out there and win the game for ’em. For a coaching staff like that to have that much trust in you to go out there and just say ‘1-4 flat’ was kind of cool. It was good.
“For me to be the rook and have so much confidence in me to go out there and win the game for us is big, and it shows how much trust they have in me. I can’t thank them enough,” Thomas added. “I can’t thank my teammates enough for trusting me as well to give me the ball and just clear out ‘1-4 flat.’ Do you. Be you.”
“Do you, be you.” Indeed.
Of course, Thomas will be behind three of the NBA’s best guards on the Brooklyn depth chart in James Harden, Kyrie Irving and newly acquired Patty Mills. The downside is that he won’t get as many minutes as he would if he was playing for a rebuilding club. The upside is that he can learn from those guys and by all accounts, they’re all willing teachers. He WILL have to make a commitment to passing — which he has in Las Vegas — and defense — which is, as they say, a work in progress.
Still Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer summed up what he sees as Thomas’s potential on Friday when he talked to Chris Vernon on “The Mismatch” podcast about Thomas’s “feel.”
“Whether he becomes an All-Star or a great player or just a microwave guy off your bench, we’ll see how things pan out,” said O’Connor. “ I have no doubt about this guy’s ability, that his scoring will translate. He’s just one of those guys who at every level of basketball can get buckets. In high school, he broke records as a scorer. In college, he was one of the best scorers in the entire nation. In the Summer League, one of the best scorers. In the NBA, it might take some time but this guy can become one of the better scorers.”
Heady, heady stuff for the 27th pick, a teenager, but the “big edge” Bobby Marks described in talking about Thomas’s confidence could become an edge for Sean Marks as well.
- Cameron Thomas ‘just finds a way’ to keep scoring at summer league - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Five thoughts on the Nets from NBA Summer League: Cam Thomas, Day’Ron Sharpe and Kessler Edwards - Alex Schiffer - The Athletic
- Encouraging early returns on Nets’ 2021 draft - Greg Logan - Newsday