"He hit shots when we needed them, he got defensive stops when we needed them, he was just the best all-around player on the court today." – Mitch McGary, Consensus top 30 recruit and Brewster Academy teammate
"We've had so many college coaches on campus…I'd bet eight out of 10 would ask about Aaron. They'd say, 'The kid going to Florida State is the real deal.' " – Jason Smith, Head Coach at Brewster Academy
This is the kind of lofty praise being thrown around for Florida State freshman Aaron Thomas, the number 62 recruit in the 2011 RSCI consensus ranking. A 6’5 guard from Cincinnati—by way of Brewster Academy, rated by some as the best high school team in the country last year—Thomas is at his best when he his slashing to the basket. He’s a competent ball handler and a tremendous athlete, with this combination allowing him to get to the basket seemingly whenever he wants. He also has range out beyond the three-point line, though like Michael Snaer when he first arrived on campus, his mechanics need a little tightening up which will help get rid of some of his streakiness from outside.
Defensively, Thomas has all the makings of a classic Leonard Hamilton defender. He has above average size and length for a guard, allowing him to be a terror in the passing lanes. He also is known as a very hard worker and someone who is committed to being a great defender. In the two exhibitions, Aaron has displayed a solid understanding of Hamilton’s defensive system, which is part of the reason why he saw ample minutes on the floor. The biggest area I saw where he needs to improve is a tendency to leave his feet on the perimeter trying to block an opponent’s threes. That is a common freshman mistake and I’d rather him make aggressive mistakes like that one than be hesitant. In fact "aggressive" is a word you'll hear tossed around a lot with Thomas. He plays with an edge. Thomas and fellow 2-guard Terry Whisnant are coming from opposite ends of the spectrum - Thomas is an aggressive scorer who the coaches need to reign in, while Whisnant can be too tentative. I'd pay good money to watch these two successors to Snaer battle each other in practice. Either way, with these two in hand, and XRM on the way, the 2-guard spot is overflowing with riches.
So what should we expect from Thomas this year? At worst he will be another solid ball handler and scorer off the bench. At best he plays starters minutes (in Ham’s system the true starter often doesn’t matter), turns our scoring threesome of Snaer/Miller/White into a four-headed monster, and uses his size and explosiveness to pick up some of the rebounding slack as well.
“He has the potential to develop into a really good basketball player,” Leonard Hamilton recently said of Thomas. Hopefully potential turns into reality sooner rather than later.