Meet Devin Thomas, Wake Forest’s Wolfpack KillerPosted by KCarpenter on January 23rd, 2013
It’s understandable if, before today, you hadn’t thought much about Devin Thomas. The 6’9″ freshmen has only averaged 24.9 minutes per game, and his scoring average of 6.5 PPG for a still-struggling Wake Forest squad hadn’t exactly been the stuff of legend. You’d think that maybe his true offensive brilliance has been masked by a relative dearth of playing time, but Ken Pomeroy had measured his offensive efficiency at the staggeringly bad figure of 84.9. In one sense, that makes last night’s performance seem especially incredible. It also makes it seem like Thomas was due to finally have some luck.
Against North Carolina State, Thomas out-Howelled none other than Richard Howell himself. The Wolfpack center scored 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting and grabbed 16 rebounds (nine offensive rebounds). Yet somehow, the wily freshmen put up 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting and managed “only” 14 rebounds (also with nine offensive boards) and four blocks. On a night when the two other Wake Forest freshman starters struggled, with Codi Miller-McIntyre amassing six turnovers (though admittedly having a strong shooting night) and Arnaud William Adala Moto fouling out in only 17 minutes, Thomas delivered the strongest performance of his blossoming collegiate career.
If Thomas’ performance was improbable, so was Wake Forest’s victory. Coming into the game, the team had yet to win a game against a ranked team in the Jeff Bzdelik era. The team had never beaten NC State since he had taken over. At halftime, the Wolfpack led the Demon Deacons by 12 points. Make no mistake, though, this game belonged to Thomas. Scoring the first bucket of the second half (he also, incidentally scored the first basket of the game), Thomas initiated a Wake Forest surge in the early minutes after halftime. He capped the run with a steal and a dunk with 9:57 remaining to give Wake Forest its first lead since the opening minutes. The score see-sawed back and forth, but Thomas made or assisted the final three made field goals by WFU, giving the Deacons a 10-point lead going into the final four minutes. Though Wake Forest’s inability to make a field goal down the stretch kept NC State in it until the end, the Demon Deacons made enough of their free throws to secure the big win. All thanks to a first-year big man coming into his own at just the right time.
Should we have expected such a fine performance from the freshman? Perhaps. Thomas has already been one of the better rebounders in the conference, averaging 6.9 RPG, good for the final spot in the conference’s top 10. Taking into account his minutes and tempo, his rebounding looks even more impressive: His 16.5% total rebound percentage is better than both Alex Len and Devin Booker, so perhaps we should have seen his gaudy rebounding total coming. Still, his unexpected scoring explosion was a real treat for Wake Forest fans, and a reminder to the rest of the ACC that you can’t take any wins for granted because sometimes all it takes is one big performance from a freshman to protect your home court.