It has been awhile since Jevon Thomas played meaningful basketball.
The Seton Hall guard has sat on the sidelines for some time, watching and waiting. Now, a year and a half removed from his transfer from Kansas State, Thomas will get his first chance to play for the Pirates on Friday, Dec. 23 when they host Rutgers.
It was supposed to be just a one-year absence for the junior, a result of NCAA transfer rules. That was until Thomas reportedly choked a graduate assistant refereeing an intramural basketball game last February. The on-campus incident earned Thomas a fall semester suspension.
Now that Thomas has made up that semester, he is eligible to compete once again.
With his off-the-court issues behind him, Thomas will look to add to Seton Hall’s backcourt. His teammates are excited about what he can bring to the table, especially in terms of defense.
“This guy be playing defense at another level, honestly. I really like how he plays defense,” Angel Delgado said. “I told him, I said, ‘Yo, you cannot stop nobody,’ and he got a lot of confidence in himself, saying, ‘I’m the best defender in the country.’ I love that.”
Thomas is going to get his chance to prove that claim. Kevin Willard is still working on how he is going to incorporate the guard in his lineup after the team went 9-2 without him, though.
“You know, I need to figure that out within a week,” Willard said after SHU’s last game without Thomas, a Dec. 17 win over Delaware. “We’ve practiced with three guards, with Khadeen [Carrington], Madison [Jones] and him on the court. I think it’s just going to be a matter of seeing what matchups are out there and what we can exploit. It’s not going to be an easy fit, to be honest with you.”
One player Willard believes Thomas can be effective with is freshman sharpshooter Myles Powell.
“We’ve been putting [Thomas] in the second team, trying to get him to work with Myles Powell,” Willard said. “I think it will help Myles Powell a little bit defensively. They play actually pretty well in practice together.”
Thomas’ return will likely mean less minutes for Jones, who has emerged as the Hall’s starting point guard after coming over from Wake Forest. Jones, however, is excited to see his teammate back on the court.
“I don’t think it’s going to affect me at all,” Jones said. “J.T. is only going to help us. He’s great defensively, he’s only going to come in and help us, so I don’t think it’s going to affect me at all.”
When Thomas steps on the home court at Prudential Center against Rutgers, it will be his first game since March 11, 2015. Rust is inevitable. Desi Rodriguez knows it’s going to take Thomas a bit to shake the cobwebs off.
“He’s got to get in his little groove, so we’re going to help him get in the groove Friday,” Rodriguez said. “We’re going to help him create as much as we can, we’re going to knock down shots for him, just to get him back in that flow.”
Friday has been a long time coming for Thomas.
It will be his first chance make his mark on the floor for Seton Hall. After an off-court issue, he has the support of his teammates. They are eager to see what he can do.
“He’s real excited, I hope he plays a really good game, maybe get Player of the Game,” Delgado said. “I hope so.”
Elizabeth Swinton can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @eswint22.