Tyrus Thomas: Talent Rich, Production Poor

Charlie DanoffCorrespondent IMarch 12, 2008

Republished, with permission from The Chicago Sports Review

In his first on-court action since his suspension, Tyrus Thomas played just four minutes Sunday night against the Pistons. He didn't do much on the court, save a horrendous bounce pass to no one that went directly out of bounds. It was the type of mental hiccup that has infuriated Scott Skiles and Jim Boylan.

Yet, fans also saw the opposite side of the coin when Tyrus received a pass outside the three point line, just past the 11 minute mark of the second quarter. Facing up against his defender, Thomas did a between-the-legs-crossover, followed by a spin-o-rama before getting fouled as he barely missed a layup.

It was a display of the other-worldly athleticism GM John Paxson saw when he drafted Thomas, and was a play maybe only two or three other power forwards in the entire league could make.

To evaluate the young forward I thought it appropriate to take a look back into days gone by, to see what might appear on the yet unwritten pages of the book on Tyrus' NBA career.

Coming to LSU as an unheralded recruit on nobody's top 100 list, Thomas remained in obscurity his first year at school. A neck injury forced him to be a medical redshirt, and he only appeared in one preseason game. The next year he was a reserve for his first 11 games, but his time on the bench didn't last long.

After grabbing the starting spot at power forward, next to Glen "Big Baby" Davis, Thomas burst onto the national scene with authority. By January he was on NBA scout's radars, and Bulls GM John Paxson flew out to see him play against the Connecticut Huskies team that featured four future NBA first-round picks.

Matched up against a strong Huskies frontcourt of Hilton Armstrong and Josh Boone, Tyrus dominated in the nationally televised game. He scored 15 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and got an astounding 7 blocks, etching himself into the memories of college fans nationwide.

Not the least of which was Paxson, who said recalling the game:

"Every scout who left that game in Connecticut saw the same things I did. It's simple: His potential is the highest of any of the players out there."
"When you are drafting No. 2, with a clear shot at far and away the best talent in the Draft, you don't pass on him. Not now and not ever."
"I'm just into the free money. That's it. I'll just do whatever when I get out there."
"Now I could let these dream killers kill my self-esteem
or use my arrogance as the steam to power my dreams
I use it as my gas, so they say that I'm gassed
But without it I'd be last, so I ought to laugh"
"He never stopped working... He's young, so his leadership skills aren't there yet, but his personality is so true, so encouraging, that he's definitely the kind of player whose devotion and effort rub off on teammates."
"You have to maximize your skills and ability. Potential is just a smokescreen. You have to prove you're real in order to earn all the praise."