UNLV basketball:

UNLV prospect’s goal is to be the best in class of 2015


Las Vegas Sun

UNLV head coach Dave Rice and assistant coach Todd Simon talk during the Bishop Gorman vs. Findlay Prep basketball game Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, at South Point. Gorman won 76-72 in overtime. Rice’s brother Grant Rice is the Gorman coach, while Simon previously coached Findlay Prep.

To Elijah Thomas, it doesn’t matter that he was sidelined from the summer circuit because of injury until June this season, or that guys like Oakland’s Ivan Rabb and Bishop Gorman High’s Chase Jeter and Stephen Zimmerman are all top-10 bigs in the class of 2015. To Thomas, a UNLV target out of Lancaster, Texas, he’s the top player and soon enough everyone else will agree.

“If you don’t think you’re the best, you’re setting yourself up for failure,” Thomas said. "I think I’m the best player in my class.”

Not just best post player but best player. Period.

He’s certainly got the requisite confidence to succeed and on Wednesday night in the Fab 48 showcase at Bishop Gorman, he showed flashes of the game that could back it up. Thomas scored 19 in a Team Texas Elite loss, getting most of his points with bruising post play but also making one play coast-to-coast with a good finish at the end.

Thomas’ biggest issue right now is conditioning. The finger injury that held him out four months may have affected other areas of his game because Thomas had to ask out of the game multiple times because the big man was breathing heavily.

While that injury might have set him back a little, Thomas said he was fortunate to come back so quickly.

“God has blessed me,” Thomas said. “Not everybody can be recruited by a lot of schools, be able to go wherever you want and be an instant impact.”

After the game at Gorman, Thomas’ team traveled to Spring Valley High for its first game in the Las Vegas Classic, where Thomas scored 16 points in a victory. UNLV coach Dave Rice and assistants Todd Simon and Ryan Miller were courtside for both games.

Thomas said his list of schools is at six or seven, with UNLV “most definitely” in that mix. Thomas knows incoming players Goodluck Okonoboh, Rashad Vaughn and Jordan Cornish, saying that he texts with the latter two daily.

“I have a lot of friends on the team and a really good bond with the coaches,” Thomas said. “Las Vegas is a really good atmosphere … flexing to the crowd, that’s my type of game, smiling. Not every coach lets you do that, so that’s a big plus for them.”

Simon’s recent experience as Findlay Prep’s coach also seemed to be a bonus for Thomas.

“I can relate to him,” Thomas said. “He’s more than just recruiting me. He’ll see my game, and if I have a bad game, he tells me what to work on to get better and better.”

Some of the other schools in the mix are Oklahoma State, Illinois, Texas and SMU. Thomas’ first official visit is to Oklahoma State in September, and he said he plans to use all five visits before making a decision that might come in November.

That gives him a few months to put in the work and make everyone else believe that Thomas is as good as he thinks.

“Once I get my feet back under me, I’ll be able to re-separate myself from everybody,” Thomas said.

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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