Douwante Thomas’ constant progress on the basketball court in recent years, to his credit, has given way to his coming under the radar by a number of college scouts.
Among the key attributes recruiters have noticed is that the First Assembly Christian School’s swingman’s relentless leaping ability, quickness, and his ability to penetrate to the basket have provided fits for opposing teams, both on the AAU circuit and high school games.
Thomas’ continuous improvement was among the key factors that prompted FACS coach D’Marius Wilkes to switch him to a two-way athlete for the Crusaders during what was an efficient season for his star player.
For starters, the 6-foot-5 Thomas — just as he’s done since he was installed as a starter his freshman year — proved to be the centerpiece of an FACS team that finished 12-8 this year and witnessed it season end in a loss to St. George’s Feb. 13. Thomas was the Crusaders’ leading scorer, averaging better than 15 points a game. In addition, he managed 8.3 rebounds, 3.4 blocks, three assists, and 1.4 steals.
And, because he spent a better part of this campaign playing above the rim, Thomas witnessed his field goal percentage soar to a remarkable 61.3 percent, while shooting 72.9 from the free throw line, all of which earned him All-District honors in TSSAA Division 2-A for a third consecutive year.
Still, following a year in which FACS didn’t make a lengthy postseason run, Thomas admittedly became his own worst critics, of sorts, saying among other things that he could have done more to help propel the Crusaders to a better overall showing.
“I would say I could have done a lot better than I did,” the 17-year-old Thomas told MemphiSport. “I played a little bit timid at times. I played as if I didn’t want to mess up. But I just kept playing through (mistakes) and my coach challenged me to play through them.”
Wilkes among those who relishes the fact that Thomas, his featured player, didn’t shy away from taking ownership of his weaknesses and occasional mishaps this season. However, he sensed that Thomas still made continuous strides and, most importantly, upgraded his mechanics in this, his final season as a high school basketball player.
“He has been the heart and soul for us offensively and defensively,” Wilkes said. “He is probably the best athlete in the city as far as running and jumping. His progress this year has been tremendous.”
Never mind that his progress unfolded in the private school sector.
Although Thomas didn’t garner as much exposure in recent years as his peers in the public school system, his presence as a member of Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway’s Team Penny 17-and-under AAU squad boosted his stock with college scouts.
Currently, Thomas has generated interests from Tennessee State, the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, Union University, and Southeast Missouri State. While neither school has made an official offer, Thomas — who is scheduled to make official visits to these schools in the coming weeks — is confident he’ll ultimately fulfill his dream of playing college basketball.
“I’m willing to do anything necessary to receive a scholarship,” Thomas said.
Even if it means doing the little things that will leave a favorable impressions on recruiters as he prepares to set foot on several college campuses soon.
“I know I’ve got to lift weights more, condition, and work on my ball-handling,” said the 178-pound Thomas, adding that he plans to improve his mid-range jumper and 3-point field goal efficiency. The scouts say I’m one of the most athletic people they’ve ever seen. I guess I get that a lot.”
Given his constant progress on the basketball court in recent years, chances are he will hear it a lot more this fall.
Only this time, he’ll hear it wearing a college basketball uniform.