From JV to the big league, Cameron Thomas makes an impact with the Bulldogs
Published 1:00 pm Wednesday, January 10, 2024
Every season there are players that make huge strides from where they were last season. LaFayette has seen several players come into their own this season, but few have made as big of a jump as Cameron Thomas.
The Bulldogs started out the season with mostly upperclassmen in the starting lineup. Due to injuries and extenuating circumstances, the team has seen several younger players get minutes.
Late in December, LaFayette found a rising star on the JV team. Head coach Chase Lewis noticed Thomas during practice. Thomas was initially added to the varsity team and came off the bench. After just a couple of games, Thomas found his way into the starting lineup and has remained there ever since.
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“He just earned it,” LaFayette coach Chase Lewis said. “I tell our kids all the time, what you do in practice, it shows me what you can do on the floor. I only believe what you show me. I noticed him in practice when we had our joint practice, and he was doing pretty good.”
Thomas had been the starting point guard for the JV team, now he’s a pivotal part of the starting five. The sudden rise came as a surprise for many, including Thomas.
“It was kind of surprising when I found out I was going to be on there,” Thomas said. “I was glad that my hard work was actually being taken note of. I was really surprised. I know it was due to injuries, but it’s still being in the starting lineup.”
Lewis made the decision to look toward Thomas during the team’s joint practices. While leading the JV team, Thomas was able to hang with and even outperform several members of the varsity squad. With injuries and spots open, Lewis decided that Thomas needed to be the next man up.
“As a coach, you evaluate all your kids,” Lewis said. “I have a relationship even with the middle school team. I don’t care if it’s a seventh-grader. If he looks like he can play varsity and he’s doing things that we’re missing on the varsity level, come here young man.”
Thomas is just a sophomore and most in his position would have had fear when going against the varsity team. Thomas brought a different mentality each day in practice.
Thomas did not just look to hang with the older guys. He wanted to prove that he belonged. Thomas proved that through his intensity and defensive ability each day.
“Just a lot of confidence,” Thomas said. “Just don’t be too nervous. When you go against older people, you’re still playing the same game.”
After making the jump to the starting lineup, Thomas quickly became a major part of the team on both sides of the court. Thomas is an inside scoring threat for the Bulldogs on offense, but he does his best work on the defensive side of the court.
Thomas is wise beyond his years on the defensive side. During the early parts of the game, Thomas watches and analyzes player tendencies and makes changes to his defensive game plan later in the game.
Thomas is also considered to be one of the “hustle guys” for LaFayette. Thomas tries to be the first player on the ground for each loose ball and brings intensity to each play.
“You’re going to need a hustle guy on every team,” Thomas said. “It’s always good to have one.”
Thomas is not just a big part of LaFayette’s team this season, he is also expected to be a big part of the program’s future.
Thomas was the starting point guard on the JV squad, and Lewis hopes for him to take over the starting role next season when Deaundra Vines graduates. Now, Thomas can share some of the responsibility with Vines and learn from him along the way.
“Trying to groom him for next year for when Dra leaves to be the starting point guard,” Lewis said. “He can also use those point guard responsibilities on the floor with us.”
Even while on the JV squad, Thomas has tried to learn from the more experienced players on the team. Several seniors on the team knew that Thomas would make the jump to varsity sooner rather than later, and they spent time with him each day working to help him improve.
This season, one of Thomas’ main tutors is Vines. Vines is considered to be one of the best guards in 2A. Thomas hopes to eventually match Vines’ decision-making on the court.
“Try to do what he’s doing but try to do it even better,” Thomas said. “He makes good decisions, but I have to learn how he does that. I don’t know how to make those good decisions yet, but I’m going to learn.”
Thomas is going to be a player to watch for throughout this season and in the future on the hardwood and the gridiron. Thomas has shown early on that his love for the game is unmatched by many his age, and he will continue to blossom with more time on the court.
“I just love basketball,” Thomas said.