Sunday, April 20, 2014

Thomas To Visit St. John's, South Florida

St. John's and Fordham are both recruiting Westchester Community College forward Keith Thomas as aggressively as any other potential Division-I suitor.

Now, New York area recruiting ace Emanuel "Book" Richardson and Arizona have jumped in on the ever-growing KT Sweepstakes.

"He's going to visit St. John's on Monday and Tuesday, South Florida on Wednesday and Thursday, and Arizona just knocked on the door," said Vikings head coach Tyrone Mushatt, who helped nurture the 23-year-old Thomas' basketball resurrection following a sabbatical.

"St. John's and Fordham are both showing interest in Keith and Giovanni (McLean). We've got schools 500 miles away, now all of a sudden we've got schools 15 miles away."

Richardson, a Harlem native and, like Mushatt, a product of St. Raymond's High, came in during the 11th hour.

 Thomas plans to schedule a visit to Florida State.  FSU has been in persistent pursuit since Thomas dropped 11 points, snared 13 rebounds, and doled out four assists during a wild, 101-99 double overtime loss to Wallace State at the NJCAA national tournament in Hutchinson, Kan.

That game was played before a veritable sea of mid and high-major coaches. It enhanced the exposure for the troika of 6-foot-8 Thomas, McLean, and shooting guard Luis Montero. Montero has been thoroughly hounded by Alabama, the program which has expressed the most love.

Penn State, LSU, and South Florida are also in the hunt for the 6-foot-8 Montero, who averaged 15.6 points, 5.9 boards, and 3.0 assists.

South Florida head coach Orlando Antigua, who supplanted Stan Heath in late March, is a longtime friend of Mushatt's.

USF has had success with Westchester, as they netted heavily-pursued 6-foot-11 forward and former JUCO Player of the Year Jarrid Famous in 2009.

Both programs, however, were under different coaching staffs back then. Antigua and Mushatt both played under Gary DeCesare at St. Raymond's in the early 1990s, an unrivaled era of prosperity for New York City hoops.

Thomas, who averaged 15.3 points and a NJCAA-leading 15.7 boards this season en route to NJCAA Region XV Player of the Year, piloted the 28-4  Vikes to their first JUCO national tournament since 1996.

"It's hard to pinpoint Keith's best attribute as a player and that's because he's always working on all components of his game," Mushatt explained.

"He's always in the gym. The best part about him though, is that he doesn't take prisoners. It doesn't matter who you are playing."

Thomas, a Mount Vernon, N.Y. native, played just one year of high school basketball. Surfacing as one of the best passing big men in Section 1, he helped lead Yorktown High School (N.Y.) to a Section 1 Final Four at the County Center.

Thomas was dismissed from the team a year later, following a felony assault.

He staged a comeback on the AAU scene and continued to ply his trade at Solaris in Yorktown, immersed in constant pickup games.

After approaching Mushatt in his office, professing a newfound passion for the game, Thomas showed up to tryouts in October.

The rest is history.

With a proclivity for snatching 50-50 balls and a monstrous work ethic that Mushatt likens to a NAVY SEAL, Thomas flourished this season.

The impact was felt instantly, as Thomas averaged 11.0 points through his first six games, shooting 28-of-50 during that span.

His game took off mid-way through the season, as he shot 60 percent from the floor during the month of January. His production rate increased in February, when he averaged 20.3 points and racked up various double-doubles.

"Keith was so consistent all year," Mushatt said.

"We ran something similar to the Chicago Bulls offense, the triangle. I put a wrinkle in it, where you have your three best scorers on the floor. On the other side of the floor, you've got a guy who can knock down a steady 15-17 foot jumper. You've got a triangle on one side. It started out good, then the sky was pretty much the limit after that."