In College Park, it’s a Thomas family reunion
By Gene Wang,
Maryland junior Alyssa Thomas could not have been more pleased when her younger brother, Devin, scored a career-high 25 points last week for Wake Forest in an upset of then-No. 18 North Carolina State. What’s more, Devin went on to be named ACC rookie of the week, an award Alyssa won a program-record seven times on the way to winning conference rookie of the year in 2010-11.
Alyssa even sent a text message to Devin congratulating the 6-foot-9 forward for his performance against the Wolfpack, which also featured team highs of 14 rebounds, four assists, four blocks and three steals.
But Alyssa just couldn’t resist a little dig either, underscoring why Terrapins Coach Brenda Frese has called the reigning ACC player of the year the most unyielding competitor she’s been associated with in 11 seasons in College Park.
“I still hold the record. Your career high is 25. Mine is 29,” father Bob Thomas recalled as the kicker in his daughter’s electronic communication to Devin, referencing Alyssa’s point total in last season’s ACC tournament title game triumph over Georgia Tech.
“Yeah, if I had made a couple more free throws she wouldn’t be saying that,” said Devin, who was 5 of 11 from the line against North Carolina State.
The entire Thomas family, including mother Tina Klotzbeecher-Thomas and youngest sibling Alexia, 11, reunited over the past two days when Wake Forest played Maryland at Comcast Center on Saturday afternoon. Alyssa and her brother ate dinner together Friday night after the Demon Deacons’ shoot-around, and she joined her parents the next day to watch Devin’s game.
The Thomases are familiar faces at Comcast Center, and on Saturday they greeted a steady parade of Maryland basketball staff, including managers, trainers and public relations officials, at their seats behind the Wake Forest bench.
Traveling to College Park is a “normal” affair, as Tina described it. They make regular trips up and down the East Coast from their Harrisburg, Pa., home, to wherever Alyssa and Devin play. With Wake Forest in town, three buses stocked with Devin’s friends made the two-hour trip south, too.
No extra suitcases were necessary for the family’s weekend doubleheader. Both parents wore their Wake Forest sweatshirts for the drive. Bob slipped on his customary black Demon Deacons visor, unabashed in supporting the road team. School pride matters far less than cheering for their children. By this time Sunday, they’ll have switched into Maryland gear for Alyssa’s game anyway.
“We’re living the dream,” Tina said. “Two kids playing in the ACC? There’s nothing better.”
They respected their status as visiting fans Saturday, sitting down yet clapping enthusiastically when Devin made a layup early in the first half. But after his son got whistled for an off-ball foul on Terrapins center Alex Len, Bob rose as the referee approached the scorer’s table and held up two fingers, Devin’s jersey number.
Near the end of Maryland’s 86-60 victory, fans began chanting, “Alyssa’s better,” reminding Devin what his sister has told him many times.
Devin won’t be able to stick around Sunday to watch Alyssa — who’s first in rebounding (10.3) and second in scoring (16.5) and assists (5.6) in the ACC — as the 10th-ranked Terrapins play Boston College, although the game doesn’t figure to include much drama. Maryland (17-3, 8-1 ACC) has won seven in a row and 13 of 14 to move into a second-place tie with North Carolina in the conference.
Boston College (9-11, 3-6) is coming off an 81-69 victory over North Carolina State but had lost four in a row, including by 12 to Virginia. Maryland won its ACC opener against the Cavaliers, 79-55, thanks in part to Thomas’s 20 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and four steals.
The Terrapins’ most indispensable player has welcomed an expanded role in the offense when the team’s starting back court was lost for the season because of injury, and the results have been historic. Thomas is believed to be the only player in NCAA women’s basketball history to average at least 15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists at any point in a season.
Devin, meantime, entered the weekend averaging 7.9 points and 7.6 rebounds. He’s averaging 9.8 rebounds in conference play, which ranks third in the country among freshmen, and his 1.5 blocks are eighth in the ACC.
“Nothing was really ever thought about,” Alyssa Thomas said when asked if she and her brother dreamed both would play major Division I college basketball. “We just loved playing basketball in the driveway, and that’s just the way we’ve grown up. Now to see where we’re at, it’s a huge accomplishment.”
Staff writer Alex Prewitt contributed to this report.