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Cam Thomas mentors always knew he had it in him

Brooklyn Nets v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Expect Cam Thomas to get a lot of minutes Thursday night vs. the Bucks. The Nets are resting five players and Jacque Vaughn said Wednesday, his numbers could be high.

“Yeah, he could easily play 30 minutes [against the Bucks],” Vaughn told reporters when asked if the 21-year-old was still in the rotation. “So it doesn’t change my ability to put him on the floor at any time of the game.”

The 21-year-old has played only 14 minutes the last three games, none at all in the victory over the Rockets, but everyone remembers what he can do, dropping 40 points in three straight games as Brooklyn was transitioning from KD and Kyrie to something else. It was a scoring rampage that only Allen Iverson had been able to accomplish at such a young age. His disappearance is mostly a function of Brooklyn adding a lot of new faces and Vaughs’s desire to see what the new faces — particularly Mikal Bridges, Spencer Dinwiddie and Cam Johnson — can do. He also needs to prove he can play at both ends.

Some may have lost faith in him in the month since his statistical onslaught but Cam Thomas has certainly not lost faith in himself and nor have the two men who knew him best as a schoolboy, then college phenom, his high school and college coaches. Neither were surprised at what Thomas did or can do when called on.

indeed, if you ask those who have been around Thomas if they were surprised at the early impact the second year player has had with the Nets, they would simply say, no. They knew that universal quote, “chance favors the prepared mind.”

Will Wade, the fourth winningest coach in LSU basketball history had Thomas during the 2020-21 NCAA season. It was no secret that he’d reach some level of elite success.

“Nobody was as disciplined as Cam was to carry everything out,” Wade said. “Everything he did in college was about making himself better and putting himself in the best possible position to play in the NBA and have success. He is one of the few players I have coached that lived that mindset every single day.”

During his one year stint as a Tiger, Thomas averaged 23 points on 40% from the field, which helpearn All-SEC First Team honors and acquire the most 20 point games for LSU since Shaquille O’Neal during the 1992 season.

While Thomas is suffering a lack of time on the floor, his skills will never be in question. Ever since high school, Thomas’ ability allowed him to be recognized as someone with a strong future in the NBA.

Steve Smith, former Oak Hill Academy coach who is constantly labeled as one of the greatest high school coaches of all time, was amazed at Thomas’s game while he was a part of his program.

“I always thought to myself when he gets his chance in the NBA, he is going to put up numbers,” Smith told NetsDaily. “I remember vividly when colleges were starting to scout him, opposing defenses were geared to stop him. Since he doesn’t really get that in the NBA and most people play him one on one, nobody can really guard him. He is gonna get his shot on anybody because he can get to the rim, he has a strong body, great shooter with deep 3-point range, and he is really good at getting to the free throw line.”

For his coaches, this is not some flash in the pan, some updated version of LinSanity, but indicative of what Thomas can bring and hopefully will bring. Indeed, in that three game-span against the Washington Wizards, Los Angeles Clippers, and Phoenix Suns, Thomas averaged a staggering 44.6 points per game, flashing an ability to score in a variety of ways in a mature manner that is rare for a 21 year old. It can’t be dismissed.

There have been times when he may have appeared sullen — it’s sometimes hard to tell — but everyone realizes that having a young emerging scorer in Thomas could not only be beneficial for the rest of the season, possibly for incoming years ... or even as a trade piece.

One thing his former coaches will tell you, Thomas will not fail based on a lack of work. That’s a given.

“That all came from his late nights in the gym, he was always in the gym at Oak Hill,” Smith said. That’s still true now.

The world of the Brooklyn Nets has had a strange atmosphere in the 2022-23 season. While dealing with the soon-to-be departure of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, thoughts of how the Nets would handle their future circulated in NBA headlines and remained up in the air of the organization. While all of this was happening, second year fan favorite Cam Thomas went on a tear. It was a good thing and it may be again tonight. His coaches will be warching.