Last year Keith Thomas became a star. He was 6-foot-6 and athletic yet incredibly skilled for his size. Thomas was perhaps the best passing big man in the area.
As a junior, he helped Yorktown reach the Class AA semifinals at the County Center. The ‘Huskers nearly upset Mount Vernon, making it a game until the final minute.
Clearly, Thomas was among the top five or so players returning in the section. But all his promise for a big senior season disappeared last August when he faced felony assault charges.
Thomas instantly fell off the local basketball map… until Saturday. That night at the CYP I noticed a tall, athletic and skilled player by the same name on the New Jersey Roadrunners. I asked the coach if it was the same Thomas who starred at Yorktown and he said he didn’t know. “I just met the kid two weeks ago.” But one look at the floor sealed it. Thomas was wearing shiny green adidas sneakers. That was enough evidence for me. (That’s Thomas — green adidas and all — pictured above battling St. Anthony’s Davon Collier in the post.)
I sat next to Thomas for a minute after the game. Between that and a talk later with his godfather, who lives in Rockland and helped connect Thomas with the Roadrunners.
It turns out Thomas has been enrolled at BOCES in Yorktown Heights. He said he hadn’t played basketball all winter and was just getting back into the game. He intends on playing for the Roadrunners and for the AAU Bronx Lions with the hope of finding a community college team for the fall.
“I didn’t do much in the winter,” Thomas said. “I’m just jumping into this team. Other than that, I’‘m just looking for any team to play with.”
Obviously, Thomas has a past to overcome but his talent is undeniable. Even with an entire winter away from basketball he more than held his own against Frenji’s front line of high school stars and Division I players. Thomas battled in the paint, grabbing several rebounds and scoring a few layups/putbacks in the paint. And on a couple occasions he showed the unselfishness and vision that really set him apart for a players his size. On one play in the first half he spun for a layup and was challenged by four long arms. Before they realized it Thomas had dumped a pass to a teammate along the baseline for a wide open layup. Those were few and far between against Frenji’s size but Thomas’ setup was so perfect many of us could’ve finished it.
Anyway, I’ll do my best to follow Thomas’ story in the future. He has faced personal failings already but there’s no doubt I’d be considering Thomas as a first-team all-star candidate had he played this season. And how about Yorktown? With Jordan Moody and Thomas, the ‘Huskers would’ve challenged for a berth at the County Center.
To those of you who were looking forward to hearing more about Thomas, sorry it took an extra day. I’m away on vacation this week. Someone (maybe me) will check in if anything breaks, and my colleague Rick Carpiniello will contribute a few thoughts on the new documentary about Mount Vernon basketball that debuted on Saturday.