Beaver Falls High School basketball coach Doug Biega knew Todd Thomas was athletic and strong, but he wasn't sure how good a player Thomas was until the Tigers went against powerful Schenley at the Blackhawk tournament last season.Matt Freed, Post-Gazette
Beaver Falls High School's Todd Thomas has been the Tigers' go-to guy this season.
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"He scored our first eight points and he's going to the basket against guys like [6-foot-7 DeJuan] Blair and [6-5 D.J.] Kennedy," Biega said. "I turned to my assistant and said 'Wait until he learns to play hoops.' He's just so athletic."
As a freshman, Thomas averaged 15 points and eight rebounds in helping Beaver Falls to the PIAA Class AA title game against Prep Charter of Philadelphia. He teamed with Lance Jeter and Jack Anderson to form one of the better on-court trios in the WPIAL in any classification.
Jeter and Anderson have graduated and Thomas, now a 6-4, 190-pound sophomore, has had to shoulder more of the load for the Tigers. He's doing a good job.
Beaver Falls has come on lately and is 11-7 overall, 6-1 in Section 6-AA following a victory against Freedom Tuesday night. The Tigers have won eight of nine games and play at section leader Aliquippa tomorrow night.
Thomas is averaging 18 points, about 10 rebounds and 10 assists per game and at the age of 15 is one of the top players in the WPIAL.
"He's just so athletic. I don't know how good a basketball player he is," Biega said. "If I'm guarding him, I'd let him shoot from the outside. I wouldn't want him going to the basket because he's just so strong.
"Last year, he was our best defender. I put him on all of the toughest guys we faced and he did a great job."
Thomas' athletic ability also carries over to other sports. A running back/defensive back in football, he was selected to the Associated Press Class AA all-state team's first squad as a defensive back this past season. He was the only sophomore on the first-team defense and just one of two on the first unit.
Biega said baseball might be Thomas' best sport and Thomas is thinking about playing this spring.
But everything is not perfect in Thomas' world. He needs to improve his grades and Biega said he has developed a small case of "super-staritis" this season.
"He's a high-energy guy. When he's giving us energy ... when he wants to get to the hole, he's pretty hard to stop," Biega said.
"When he has his lapses, he's pretty average. But when he's going full-tilt, there's not a lot of people who can do much with him."
Thomas, who has grown about an inch from last season, is much better working close to the basket. That doesn't mean he can't shoot from the outside, it's just that Biega would prefer he doesn't.
Last year in a PIAA first-round playoff game against Tussey Mountain at Pitt-Johnstown, Thomas displayed his shooting prowess by making four 3-pointers.
"I need to develop my jumper," Thomas said when asked about his shooting. "That way, I'll be harder to stop.
"Yeah, I want the ball at the end of the game so I can score and everybody's happy at the end of the day."
If he grows, and there is no reason to think he won't, Thomas could end up a 6-6 or 6-7 forward at the next level.
"When he hits his growth spurt ... and he's strong as an ox ... I can see him being that big of a guy," Biega said. "If that happens, he'll be a '4' [power forward] in college and I wouldn't want to guard him."
Football is also a possibility at the next level, especially if Thomas doesn't get much taller. Growing up, football was his best sport because he was bigger than others his age.
Thomas said he didn't get into basketball until seventh grade. It didn't take Biega long to recognize Thomas' talents.
"When he was in eighth grade, he was playing on the ninth grade team. When their season was over, we brought Todd up to the varsity to practice and he went against Lance and Jack in practice that year and then again last season."
Biega said Thomas isn't finished yet: "He's a physical specimen, but he still just 15 years old ... he's still learning."
True, but the basketball package that is Todd Thomas seems to have everything. He even likes to pass the ball when under the basket if one of his teammates is open.
Unselfish. Strong. Athletic. And still too young to have a driver's license. The future appears bright for Thomas and Beaver Falls.