After Todd Mayo was rendered academically ineligible before the start of the season, there was hope for Jake Thomas’ career at Marquette. The Golden Eagles were going to need some scoring off the bench, especially at the guard position, and Thomas was the one who fans hoped could step up for Buzz Williams.
He scored over 13 points per game in two seasons at South Dakota State, and everyone knew he could shoot. Whether he could translate his past success to the Big East and Marquette, though, was the question.
So how’d it go?
Stats: 1.8 points, 1.0 rebound, 0.6 assists, 31% FG, 27.8% on three-point shots, 9.0 minutes, appeared in 22 of 35 games
Thomas never really looked comfortable for Marquette this season. He started off going 4 of 7 from beyond the arc in the Golden Eagles’ first four games of the season, but after that shot just 5 of 22 on threes.
His shooting ability was never in question. Instead, it was his aggressiveness in looking for and taking his shot. Many believed he should have shot more even when his numbers weren’t the most impressive so he could get more looks and more of a rhythm on the court.
The redshirt junior failed to appear in more games – 12 – after Big East play started than he played in – 11. Thomas played just 32 minutes in those 11 games, with the most being seven against Syracuse at the Bradley Center in late February.
Although he didn’t play much in the Big East part of Marquette’s schedule, Thomas still managed to have the play that caused the Bradley Center to get louder than it was all season long.
Against Syracuse, the Golden Eagles needed a spark as the first half was coming to an end. They were down 29-19 with two minutes left to play. Davante Gardner hit a lay-up, to cut the lead to single digits before Thomas gave Marquette a hugely necessary boost of momentum.
He got the ball in the right corner from Junior Cadougan, directly in front of Syracuse’s bench, and nailed a three-pointer, being fouled by Jerami Grant right after he let the shot loose.
Thomas would make the free throw, and after the four-point play Marquette was within five. The visiting Orange was only up three at halftime, and in the second half failed to hold onto the lead. The Golden Eagles won the crucial Big East match-up, 74-72, and without Thomas’ amazing shot they might not have won the game or a Big East championship.
With news that Todd Mayo was to return to game action for Marquette, Thomas had to make a strong case for more minutes as the conference season was due to start. Against UW-Green Bay and LSU in December, he was a combined 2 of 8 from the field – all eight shots were three-pointers – and went on to play just 10 minutes in the Golden Eagles’ next three games
Thomas proceeded to play in just six of Marquette’s final 16 regular season games, registering just 16 minutes in those six contests. With Mayo’s return and Vander Blue and Trent Lockett playing at a high level, there was little playing time for Thomas.
The Racine native came to Marquette to be a walk-on. He has benefited from the program’s scholarship situation, though, and received one of the Golden Eagles’ 13 in both of his seasons at Marquette.
When his decision to leave the program was announced, the program was already one over that limit of 13, and minutes were going to be even tougher to come by next season for Thomas. Graduating in May, he will be able to use his final year of eligibility immediately. He did not have a scholarship taken away. Instead, he just wanted to go somewhere to get consistent minutes during his senior year.
In watching Thomas at the Milwaukee Pro-Am every summer, his ability is evident. He needs to be in the right environment to put his talents to use, though. I have no doubt he will choose the right school to give him a chance to play and score, and we all will see him averaging double-digit points against in 2013-‘14.