Chuck Landon: MU hoping Thomas can shed history of trouble
Yes, Chris Thomas has baggage.
That much is obvious.
So, there is no point in sugar-coating it.
Marshall's new 6-foot-5 shooting guard has been a veritable basketball gypsy during his young life, never staying in one place very long.
It all began in Thomas' hometown of Denver at Montbello High School, but he never played a game there. Instead, he attended Princeton Day Academy (Md.), but planned to enroll at Westwind Prep (Ariz.).
Next, Thomas decided against Westwind and enrolled at South Kent Prep (Conn.) in 2011-12. But in January 2012, he left South Kent as a 19-year-old junior and enrolled at Chipola (Fla.) junior college.
By then, his GPS- and GPA-challenged transcript was such a disaster, Thomas earned his GED at Chipola.
Somewhere along the way, Rivals.com ranked him as the No. 1 prep shooting guard in his recruiting class.
Then, Thomas verbally committed to Xavier. But a few months later, he decommitted from Xavier and eventually signed a letter-of-intent with Manhattan in November 2012.
The reason he's joining Marshall's basketball program instead of the Jaspers?
Manhattan pulled Thomas' scholarship after he was arrested in Florida. Late last year, Thomas was granted a conditional release after an arrest for driving without a valid driver's license and operating an unregistered vehicle, according to the Jackson County Floridian newspaper.
Then, Thomas violated the terms of his probationary release last March by testing positive for marijuana. So, while Chipola was competing in the Juco National Tournament, Thomas was in jail.
That was enough for Manhattan to bail out.
So, considering Thomas' well traveled, footloose resume, what are the odds of this talented but troubled athlete spending his three remaining years of eligibility at Marshall?
That's a valid question without an answer.
But, obviously, Marshall is willing to roll the dice. And that speaks to Thomas' talent level. He's a former five-star recruit whose upside is even larger than his amount of baggage.
Here's an analysis from CBSSports.com:
"One of the best pure scoring guards in the country, Thomas was rated as a five-star prospect in the class of 2013. He is long, athletic and knows how to get points at all three levels. He can create his own shot against nearly any defender. Thomas does need to keep his emotions under control, as he was prone to outbursts and had a tendency to pick up technical fouls during his time in high school."
Now, imagine a Marshall lineup including Kareem Canty at point guard, Thomas at shooting guard, Elijah Pittman at small forward, Ryan Taylor at power forward and Cheikh Sane at center.
There isn't a school in Conference USA that could match that lineup, talent-wise. Not even former league power Memphis could match that. There are a lot of schools in a lot of conferences that don't have a starting lineup with as much talent.
As for his baggage, this is a guy who once had scholarship offers from Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Memphis and Tennessee. Since then, Thomas has done a free-fall to Xavier, Manhattan and, now, Marshall.
He's at the end of his NCAA Division I rope. One more screwup and nobody in D-I will touch him. That allows Marshall coach Tom Herrion to keep Thomas on a very short leash.
Yes, Thomas has baggage.
But he's worth the risk.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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