RBC's Thomas Earns NJCAA Award
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jan 9, 2014, 23:54
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
PETERSBURG — Richard Bland has not taken the court since their home victory over Spartanburg Methodist College Dec. 19, but one Statesmen has made national headlines in the National Junior College Athletic Association this week.
The Statesmen's Micah Thomas became the second Richard Bland player to earn NJCAA Player of the Week honors this season — Tavon Mealy won the award in early December — with his two-game performance prior to the semester's end.
Thomas averaged 25 points per game during the two-game span against Wytheville Community College and Spartanburg Methodist, tallying team-high's of 29 and 21 in each game. In addition, the 3-point specialist connected on 11-of-24 3-pointers during the week for 45 percent.
Richard Bland head coach Chuck Moore said the award is just the coronation of the hard-work and dedication of the team and Thomas.
"I think it's a testament to the team and just Micah's hard-work," Moore said. "He's a gym-rat. He loves playing and he's always open to learning more about the game and even though he takes a lot of shots, he's a competitor and he wants to win games."
And Richard Bland's 11-1 start and No. 19 spot in the Division II tier polls would not be possible without Thomas' play.
The Statesmen are averaging 93 points per game which ranks No. 11 in the conference and Thomas' 19.9 points per game is a big reason why. His ability to not only hit the 3-point shot to expand the opposition's defense surely helps — he's shooting the 3-point shot at a 46 percent clip — but it's his developing ability to get into the paint which has been key to his success.
Thomas' willingness to diversify his game is something Moore has noticed through his team's first 12 games.
"He's creating a little bit more," Moore said. "He's definitely trying to expand his game and it shows. He's shooting such a high percentage because he takes good shots. But I think he's getting off-the-dribble and out in transition a lot more."
It's those types of effort Richard Bland will continue to need during the final half of their season which kicks off with back-to-back games against Fishburne Military Academy in an away game Saturday and a return to Statesmen Hall for a 3 p.m. tilt with Northern Virginia Community College Sunday.
Fishburne represents a familiar foe for the Statesmen after playing them during a scrimmage prior to their season-opener Nov. 2. While the score was reset after every 20 minutes — there were three 20-minute periods — the Statesmen won the first two periods by a combined 79-72 score.
However, facing a team with 12 players with scholarship offers to Division I schools like Kansas, University of Southern California and St. Bonaventure University, there are still unknowns against a team that has developed over the season's first two months.
"It's going to be completely different," Moore said of the match-up. "We're playing different guys, he's playing different guys. They have put in more things defensively and offensively so I think there isn't much you can take from an informal scrimmage like that."
But the two games also present a challenge for the Statesmen.
After almost a month without a competitive game, it's difficult to get back into game shape and regain the mentality which made Richard Bland one of the top teams in NJCAA's Division II tier.
With a competitive game sure to come against the Cassians of Fishburne Academy followed a contest with Northern Virginia, much will be learned about the mentality of this Statesmen squad.
Two wins will keep Richard Bland on the upward trajectory the team and the players have talked about since the beginning of the season — a championship — while a loss could halt the rising outside opinions of the team.
"It's extremely difficult and that's why we've been practicing twice a day this week," Moore said of the long lay-off. "Our legs aren't there and we're mentally not there yet, but we are going to be."
Eleven wins out of their first 12, a No. 19 ranking and two Player of the Week awards have Richard Bland riding high with confidence. For that to continue, the winning mentality the team has fostered over the course of the season has to re-emerge by Saturday.