Norwalk’s Thomas turning heads


Norwalk’s Jeff Thomas

Norwalk’s Jeff Thomas is one of the best basketball players in the state
of Ohio, but outside of basketball geeks, very few people know much
about the 6-foot-5 rising senior. Time to get acquainted…

Norwalk’s Jeff Thomas is one of the best basketball players in the state of Ohio, but outside of basketball geeks, very few people know much about the 6-foot-5 rising senior.

Norwalk, which is the county seat of Huron County and nicknamed the Maple City, is most notably known for being the birthplace of Pro Football Hall of Fame coach and pioneer Paul Brown and American League Baseball’s first president, Ban Johnson.

Now, Norwalk High School is gaining notoriety for its 43-game regular season winning streak in boy’s basketball and a fast-rising prospect in Thomas.

Thomas averaged 14 points, 6.5 rebounds, and three assists as a junior helping the Truckers to a (24-1) mark before losing to a good Mansfield Senior team, 44-42.

His stats are a little misleading according to his head coach, Steve Gray, as the 13-year boss at Norwalk estimates Thomas and some others missed around 26 quarters of play thanks to several lopsided wins.  Thomas should reach the 1,000-point mark somewhere between game 10 and 12 of the regular season.

The 175-pound Thomas has a skill set matched by very few in the Buckeye state, which is a big reason he has become in demand amongst some many colleges.

“He has the skills to literally play every position,” Gray mentioned. “He is multi-dimensional.”

In his repertoire, Thomas possesses a good mid-range game and pull-up jumper.

“Jeff’s strength as a player is his versatility,” Gray believes. “He is such a tough match up. At 6-foot-5, he is very difficult to match up with.”

Gray believes Thomas will excel at the next level and be “really, really” good.

“I think he will play a two or three at the next level,” Gray said. “ He can guard on the wing because he is so long.”

Gray is stressing a couple areas of improvement for his youngster, in the classroom and weight room.

“He has some work to do,” the Norwalk boss stated. “We just talked about that today. He should be ok.”

The Norwalk coach continued.

“He needs to shoot the three a little bit better,” Gray thinks.  “I wish he would fall in love with the weight room. If he puts on 20 pounds that would really benefit him.”
Thomas not only is succeeding during the high school season, but his college interest has drastically increased thanks to his play with the Kentucky Travelers, which are a member of the Nike EYBL.

Travelers’ director Andy Rines, who has been around the travel circuit for the past 25 years, looks for high character and tough-minded kids when selecting his roster.  According to Rines, Thomas fits both attributes.

“We heard Jeff was a really good player and he wasn’t committed to anyone,” Rines commented. “We knew it would be tough with him that far north. We found out he had some interest playing in the EYBL. We felt like it was a good fit for him and us. He came highly recommended. We took that recommendation and made the call. He has been a very welcome addition to our program.”

Thomas started the spring off in a big way with his performance in Los Angeles, California for the first leg of the EYBL circuit. He really turned some heads with his ability to shoot the basketball. Anytime a kid with size and versatility is knocking down perimeter shots that will draw a crowd.

“He has really had a good spring for us,” Rines noted. “He shoots the ball exceptionally well. He scores in a variety of ways. Jeff is a deceptive scorer that doesn’t score in bunches. He has a really nice mid-range game and shoots the three-ball well. He has done it in a lot of different ways. He does it quietly, but unbelievably effectively.”

Thomas owns offers from Toledo, Ohio, Wright State, Miami (OH), and Fairleigh Dickinson.

The versatile junior told us Mississippi State, DePaul, Xavier, Eastern Kentucky, Dayton, and Buffalo have all reached out to him since the start of spring. West Virginia, Boston College, and Clemson are also showing awareness.

“People know who he is, but right now they are just evaluating him,” Gray said.

Rines feels confident Thomas will find a good home.

“He has certainly gotten a lot of attention,” Rines stated. “He is a long, 6-foot-5 guy that can score in a variety of ways. He is really good at coming off screens. He is no question a D1 player. It just depends on who is recruiting his position in the 2014 class and what style of play. He will have several good options. Anyone that shoots the ball as well as he does is a valuable commodity.”

Rines is no stranger to high-level talent in his days with the Travelers having guided players like Ron Mercer, Corey Brewer, Vincent Yarbrough, and Lee Humphrey. Formerly based in Tennessee, Rines decided to move the team to Kentucky.

“We are now Lexington-based,” Rines relayed. “We simply made the move to Kentucky because the talent level in Tennessee is on a severe decline outside of Memphis, which was six hours from where I lived. The talent level in Kentucky will allow us to be successful in the EYBL. It has been a great move.”

Thomas and the Travelers are (7-6) after three legs of the EYBL, which puts them in a tie with All-Ohio Red and two others in Division D. Thomas is averaging a shade over 10 points per game.

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