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L’s And One: llmar’l Thomas’ cache of skills stabilizing UCLA

Iimar'i Thomas scores over her defenders. UCLA Athletics photo.

llmar’l Thomas has been an excellent addition to the UCLA women’s basketball team since transferring from Cincinnati, where she played four years. In her senior season there, in particular, she put up great numbers.

Cincinnati

In her final year with the Bearcats, Thomas averaged 23.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game. She scored in double figures 22 times and had six 30-point games. Thomas shot an impressive 54 percent from the field, and in a game against Eastern Carolina, she scored a career-high 51 points. The forward shot 20-27 from the field and 11-13 from the free-throw line in that effort.

Last season she was the AAC Player of the Year and a finalist for the Becky Hammon Mid-Major Player of the Year Award. Thomas was also First Team All-AAC every year at Cincinnati. She was also the AAC Freshman of the Year.

UCLA

Thomas came to Westwood and joined her former Bearcat head coach Tasha Brown, who is now an assistant coach for the Bruins. Thomas is no stranger to the West coast, having grown up in Oakland, California. She played her high school basketball at Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep, in San Francisco.

Iimar’i Thomas scores over her defenders. UCLA Athletics photo.

Thomas’ multi-dimensional skill set has given UCLA a lift. They have been playing short-handed due to injuries, and she has stepped in and filled many roles. Thomas is an efficient scorer in the paint because she knows how to establish position and get high-percentage shots. With an improved three-pointer, she can space the floor for the Bruins. In addition,  she is shooting a career-high 34 percent from beyond the arc.

Thomas is a high IQ player with a great feel for the game, which allows her to get easy baskets in the post. She also does a lot little things on the court that do not appear on the stat sheet, like making hustle plays and throwing the extra pass. The new UCLA star is also good on boards, and this year averages 4.6 per outing, which is good for an undersized forward.

The Bruins have struggled this season, but Thomas’ presence, as well as her contributions, have provided much-needed stability. She is second in scoring, averaging 17.2 points per game on 59 percent shooting from the field. Look for her to continue stepping up as UCLA gets into the heart of Pac-12 play. And just check Thomas out, period – she is fun to watch.

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