Sylacauga head coach Derrick Crawford said repeating as Player of the Year was one of the many lofty goals that Thomas set going into the season.
“We are both excited, Shakayla as well as myself,” Crawford said. “We have been keeping tabs on girls that could possibly be there. They take the top three vote getters out of each class and bring them there. From there they will choose Miss Basketball. One of her goals was to become Miss Basketball in the state of Alabama as well as being the 5A Player of the Year. We are excited she is excited. Everybody around the school is excited right now thinking she may have the possibility of being the Class 5A Player of the Year again as well as have a chance to win Miss Basketball. Like I told you the other day, being one of the better players in the country [is one goal]. She is excited, and grounded. Our program has come leaps and bounds over the last three or four years. She has great teammates and she is an outstanding talent that anyone would love to have. We are just proud that she is getting the opportunity to go represent Sylacauga in Montgomery.”
She scored an impressive 1,020 points in 32 games, which averaged out to 32 points per game. Her 1,020 points is the fifth most points in a single season in Alabama High School Athletic Association history. Thomas averaged 14.5 rebounds per game. The 465 boards she pulled down helped her become the all-time leader in rebounds in the AHSAA history.
“Anytime you get a chance to win such an award to be one of the best players with so many girls in the state, you still have to be excited,” Crawford said. “The only difference this time is when we sat down we made goals and all of our girls make goals. She wanted to be Player of the Year again, as well as possible being Miss Basketball in the state of Alabama. She still has some goals that she hasn’t reached also her goal was to make it to the Final Four. I guarantee you if she had to choose she would take the Final Four over Player of the Year as well as win the state championship. We don’t have a lot of personal goals, but she had a few personal goals and we had a lot of team goals that we accomplish this year. One of the ones that we didn’t, we didn’t make it to the Final Four. As she said in the press conference in Montgomery, we will be back. We are going to go to work. Our kids, coaching staff and administrators are excited for Shakayla.”
Crawford said that he saw a lot of maturity in Thomas’ game this season, which helped make her teammates better.
“I think Ron Ingram said it best,” Crawford said. “She has really incorporated her teammates’ games with hers to make her better and to make our team better. She is such an unselfish player. That is the par that I have always told people that she is so unselfish if you sit there and watch her. She has made kids around her and the program so much better to put us on an elite level in the state. We lost four games this year and all four opponents were top five teams in the state of Alabama. Three of the four opponents we lost to made it to the Final Four: Hope Academy, Faith, and Valley. She made all the girls around her better. She works so hard in the off season to prepare herself and she plays with such great talent on the AAU circuit that has gotten used to incorporating everyone around her to give them a chance to play championship basketball. That is the growth that I have seen. She has made everyone else around her that much better. She is still the same Shakayla. She still comes to work every day and she works hard. She does whatever our coaching staff asks her to do. It is just a joy to have her and watch her lead by example and not her mouth. She is not a real big verbal leader, but she does lead by example.”