The season reviews have been coming in alphabetical order from Jeremiah Davis, Alex Eppensteiner, Kelvin Gaines, Ge'Lawn Guyn and Justin Jackson, not to mention the state of the program, but today is a little different. When I said on twitter last night that I was going to be writing a recap today, someone named Cody wanted to read about Shaq Thomas. Since this is a blog for the people written by a person, today's season review is about Shaq Thomas.
Shaquille, don't call him Shaq, Thomas played in 33 of the 34 Cincinnati games this season. He averaged 10.8 minutes per game. Thomas used a pretty modest 18.7% of Cincinnati possessions. His shot percentage was 19.8%, which doesn't seem to add up. Thomas had a lower than you would think offensive rating of 93.6. He was 42-101 from the field, 41.6%. Thomas was 3-8 from 3. He was especially poor from the free throw line. This will be a huge area for his improvement as a sophomore. Thomas was 13-27, 48%. As a result, his true shooting and effective shooting percentages were all in the range of his 41.6% field goal percentage at 43% and 43.9%. True shooting weighs 3s and effective shooting weighs 3s and free throws. When you look at the free throw shooting, that makes sense to why the offensive rating was so low. Thomas scored 100 points on the nose. That averages out to 3 points a game.
Thomas was decent on the glass with a 2.2 average. He pulled in 9% of the offensive rebounds and 12.8% of the defensive. You would like to see the defensive number rise quite a bit next year. Shaq dished out 16 assists against 19 turnovers. That's something that really has to correct. Thomas did show off some defensive skills. He had 17 steals. He blocked 6 shots. Both of those were accomplished without fouling very much. There is a lot of talent here and you can see it in the modest stat line.
Shaq Thomas scored his first career points in his first career game. He went 1-4 for 3 points with a rebound in the season opening win against Tennessee-Martin. Thomas was much more efficient the following game as he scored 6 points on 3-3 shooting with 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 turnovers. He played the first of his five 20 minute outings against NCAA tournament team North Carolina A&T. He was 3-8 for 6 points, 4 rebounds, a career best 3 assists but with 2 turnovers. 5 of his 19 turnovers came in the first 3 games of the season. Thomas picked up his first steal and block in very limited action against Campbell. He barely played against Iowa State before getting 9 minutes against Oregon. He scored 4 points on 1-3, 2-3 from the free throw line, with 3 boards, 2 offensive and 2 steals. The only game Thomas missed was the Bearcats last second victory over Alabama. Shaquille came back to action with 12 minutes against UALR but he had a rough game with 2 points on 1-4, with 3 rebounds and 2 steals. It was the game after that against UMES where Thomas flashed his potential.
Thomas played 22 minutes against UMES. He went 4-8 from the floor, 3-4 from the free throw line, for his then season high of 11 points. He pulled in 7 rebounds and matched his career best with 3 assists. The made free throws was the season high point for Shaq. The 4 attempts would be one of two times he attempted that many. The next was the following game against Marshall, where he was 2-4 as part of an 8 point effort where he went 3-4 from the floor. Thomas added 3 rebounds, 2 assists and a block in the win over the Thundering Herd. Shaq had 2 points on 2 shots, 2 offensive rebounds and 2 turnovers in his first Crosstown Shootout. That was followed by 1 point against Wright St.
It was at this point in the season where Thomas went from a consistent at least 10 minutes of time on the court to yo-yoing minutes. He played 18 with 5 points and 2 steals in the loss to New Mexico, followed by 7 against Pitt, 2 points, 3 boards, and St John's. That was followed by a season high 24 minutes against Notre Dame. Thomas scored 5 on 2-6 with 3 rebounds, 2 assists and a block. He played just 4 minutes against Rutgers. Shaq scored 4 against DePaul on January 15 then didn't score until February 6 against Providence. After 12 minutes where he didn't take a shot against Marquette, Thomas played 13 minutes total the next 3 games. Shaquille played 16 against the Friars and looked to be unguardable against the PC back court. He scored 6 on 3-5 shooting. He had 4 rebounds, 2 offensive, with 1 steal and 1 block. It was Thomas who attempted a late game layup with the game in the balance. After 9 minutes and 2 points against Pitt, Thomas played 2 minutes each against Villanova and Georgetown. He didn't attempt a shot in either game.
If you just looked at the season stats, this is in the point in the season where Shaq went "Eff it, I'm shooting the ball no matter what, no one can guard me." In 10 minutes against UConn he went 0-2, but 2-2 from the stripe to go with 3 boards, an assist and a steal. He scored 7 on 3-6 with 5 boards, 2 steal and an assist in the loss at Notre Dame. Thomas was the second leading scorer for the Cats that day. He didn't score against UConn in 8 minutes, but it wasn't for a lack of attempts. He went 0-4. For some reason, Thomas barely played in the 16 point loss to Louisville and got just 2 minutes against USF.
When tournament time rolled around, Shaq Thomas was unleashed. He played 19 minutes against PC with 5 points on 2-7, a career high 8 rebounds, a career high 4 offensive rebounds, 1 assist and a block in the win. He played 18 minutes against Georgetown in a less pressure filled game with 4 points on 2-5 and 3 boards. He had 2 turnovers in that game. It was the season ending loss to Creighton where Shaq really shined. He scored his season high 12 points on a season best 6-9 from the field. He went 0-3 from the free throw line, which really hurt because he missed them both on a late game flagrant foul by Doug McDermott. He was just 1-6 from the foul line to close the season. Thomas had 4 rebounds, 2 offensive and a steal. He made a couple of highlight plays with a big follow dunk and a nasty crossover jump shot. There was a lot to be excited about for next year based off of this 3 game run.
When you look at the season story for Shaq Thomas, everything points to the 2013-14 season. He's not going to be blocked at the 3 or the 4 by veterans. In a just world he should not have his minutes juggled as much as he did this season. We know a part of the reason Thomas didn't see a ton of action was because Mick wasn't happy with his rebounding or his defense. Thomas is going to have to work on his rebounding a lot for next season. He's athletic enough to be a good defender if he puts his mind to it. Thomas was a part of the pressure package on defense, so maybe that's something we see more of next year. UC should be more athletic with Guyn, Kilpatrick, Thomas, Lawrence, Rubles, and Jackson on the floor so you would think the signs would point to a higher tempo offensively and defensively. Obviously I named 6 players so they wouldn't be on the court at the same time. I haven't seen the other freshmen play so we can talk about them later if they should be included in that group. The point is that Shaq Thomas opens up some new possibilities with his style of play that quite frankly JaQuon Parker did not.
That said, there is a lot of room in his game for Shaq Thomas to grow. Right away two things jump out. One is his free throw shooting. 48% is not going to cut it. Move that up 20% and he is still not a good foul shooter, but 68% is decent and that is an extra couple of points a game. The second thing is shot selection. Thomas can slash to the basket on anyone. What he had a lot of trouble doing at times was avoiding the reckless drive that ended with a bad shot. He went 41%. That's not bad. Thomas needs to mix in the 3 ball a little more. I know a UC player needing to be told to shoot the 3 more sounds insane, but Thomas has a good shot. He hit 3 of his last 5. His driving potential is going to give him looks. The jump shot being added to his game would get the points up a little more. When you add it up quickly, 2 free throws a game is 2 points, a 3 is obviously 3, 2 jumpers is 4, 2 layups on either put backs or driving is 4 and we are at 13 points a game. That seems like it's very doable for Shaq Thomas. The steals could go up with playing time. I wouldn't be surprised with around 1 a game. The assists should rise if he's playing with other guys who can score. His rebounding you would think improves with minutes. A 13 point, 4.5 rebound, 2 assist, 1 steal season doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility for Shaq Thomas. It would be a hell of a breakout season. I believe it's not only possible, but I believe it's going to happen.