Thomas focused on winning North-South game
by LaVonte Young
Sylacauga’s Shakayla Thomas doesn’t plan to go down to the Joe Dunn-Oliver Acadome on the campus of Alabama State University with intentions of just having a good time. The two-time Class 5A Player of the Year made it clear that she wants to leave today’s 17th annual Alabama Sports Week North-South basketball game with a victory.

“We are going to win,” Thomas said. “That is not a question. We are going to get up here and do what we have to do.”

Thomas led the Sylacauga Lady Aggies to a 28-4 record this season. Sylacauga fell in the Class 5A Central Regional tournament for the second season in a row. Thomas averaged 31.9 points and 14.5 rebounds per game. This season, she joined the 3,000-point club, and she became the all-time leader in rebounding in girl’s basketball history.

The 6-foot forward set an obtainable goal for herself going into tonight’s game.

“Well, I am going to try to accomplish this MVP award,” Thomas said.

Thomas will have seven of her AAU teammates from the Southern Starz team on the court with her including Winterboro’s Jasmine Richardson. The Southern Starz won the AAU National Championship last Saturday at Disney in Orlando. Thomas earned the Most Valuable Player award. Thomas said tonight’s game is going to feel like another AAU game.

“We have been playing together all summer, so it is just like another tournament for us,” Thomas said.

Thomas, the 29th ranked player in country according to ESPNW and the sixth ranked forward in the country, feels like she doesn’t have anything to prove in tonight’s game.

“I feel like I don’t have nothing to prove,” Thomas said. “If my game don’t speak, I don’t know what else to tell you.”

Even though Thomas has played in a lot games all over the Southeast this summer, she has still put in time this summer to work on her game.

“I’m trying to get better,” she said. “Basically, being a shooter and working with my team.”

Coming into All-Star week, Sylacauga head coach Derrick Crawford was anxious to see how Thomas’ perimeter game has developed.

“She’s having a pretty good off-season,” Crawford said in an earlier interview. “I’ve had opportunities to talk to several coaches the last several weeks about her progression over the summer — coaches from Florida State, as well as Alabama, coach (Kristy) Curry and some of those, we’ve talked. So, she’s having a great summer and she’s really doing well. One of the things that I’m anxious to see when we get to the All-Star weekend is how she’s shooting the ball. She’s shooting the ball from the perimeter really, really well right now, and that will be big to go along with her inside game.”

Thomas has squared off against some of best players in the nation this summer. She said going against other elite players has made her a better player.

“It was more of a challenge,” Thomas said. “I was playing against girls that had a chance to be better than me. It made me get better, but at the same time it helped them get better.”

Southern Starz assistant coach Orlando Jackson said he has seen growth in Thomas’ game this summer.

“This summer, we have ran into some good teams in North Carolina,” Jackson said. “We ran across San Antonio. She actually played great defense. She shut down the No.1 player in Texas. We had a rematch this go-around with the Atlanta Celtics that we lost to. She really led her team to win the game. She has an awesome AAU team; everybody shares the ball well. They are a great team. If I give them one more year together they will be unbelievable. I stay on her about working hard, keep pushing her and try to make her accomplish all the goals that she wants in life.”

Tip off is set for 6 p.m. The North leads the series 14-2.

© 2013