Seven games into his college career, which will likely be done after one season, it’s obvious LSU freshman guard Cam Thomas can score 20 points while sleepwalking.
He can roll out of bed and start hitting 3s while wiping the sleep out of his eyes looking for his slippers.
He’s able to nail a couple of stop-and-pop 15-footers while making his first cup of coffee.
He has no problems making free throws in the shower while shampooing.
In LSU’s 77-54 win over Texas A&M in an SEC opener Tuesday night in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, Thomas’ 32 points marked his LSU career high for the second straight game.
“When you put in the work I do, you feel like it’s a normal game,” Thomas said in very matter-of-fact tone after raising his scoring average to 24.1 points. “I feel very confident in my preparation, I’m ready for every game. That’s why I don’t think it’s a big deal to me.”
Even if you told Thomas that his five 20-plus point games this season are the most in Division I by a freshman or his scoring 15 or more points in all seven of LSU games so far is the longest career opening streak of 15-point games by an SEC player over the last 25 seasons (according to ESPN Stats and Info), he’d say the same thing over and over.
“That’s my role on the team, shoot and score the ball,” Thomas said. “I feel like it helps the team win, so I’m going to do it.
Thomas’ Tigers teammates, even the veterans, understand he has the greenest of green lights when it comes to taking as many shots as he pleases. He’s had 21 field goal attempts each in three games this season so far for the 6-1 Tigers, including 12 of 21 (5 of 11 3s) against the Aggies. Last year, LSU had no player attempt more than 17 field goals all season.
“He’s a very talented player, a very hard matchup and can score at all three levels (outside jumpers, drives to the basket and hitting free throws),” Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams said of the 6-4, 210-pound Thomas. “We spent an enormous amount of time on him. . .he’s really an effective scorer.”
On every team the 19-year old Thomas has ever played for – like at basketball factory Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va. where he became the school’s leading scorer in just two seasons – coaches and teammates understand the more Thomas shoots the better chance they have winning.
“When you look at Cam, you can tell he’s a pure scorer,” LSU freshman guard Jalen Cook said. “He’s locked on every shot, has the same mechanics on every shot, always gets lift on the ball. He puts in the hours. He’s a pro at scoring. That’s just something God gave him.”
The way Thomas has earned such respect is simple. Everyone he’s ever been associated with has never seen someone put up so many practice shots on a daily basis.
“He has a 9 a.m. shooting slot six days a week, he doesn’t shoot on Saturday mornings,” LSU coach Will Wade said of Thomas. “Sunday through Friday, every day, an hour and 15 minutes, he gets his work in. He goes about his business.”
Even with Thomas’ obvious talent, it’s still unusual for a freshman to have carte blanche on shooting when he pleases in games. Thomas understands he’s fortunate he has veteran teammates like juniors Javonte Smart and Darius Days and sophomore Trendon Watford, who are all returning starters.
They, like everyone else on LSU’s team, recognize Thomas’ game. When his shooting stroke finds its relaxed, instantaneous rhythm and starts banging in shot after shot – he hit four straight attempts and scored 11 points in 4:41 first half stretch vs. A&M or hitting seven consecutive attempts including four threes in just eight minutes late in the 85-81 Nov. 28 loss at St. Louis – the veterans defer to the youngster.
But Thomas also returns the favor when Days has his 3-point stroke dropping. Or when Watford has isolated his defender. Or when Smart successfully starts launching bombs from deep.
That’s the unselfish nature of these 2020-21 Tigers, a team filled with respect for each other’s talents.
It’s true that SEC play just started and there are ”heavyweight fights from here on out” as Wade likes to say. Yet the one thing that could take Wade’s fourth LSU team deep into postseason play is its undeniable chemistry.
“Our guys like each other, we’ve got a good group,” Wade said. “We’ve got the right mix. We’ve got really good people, we don’t have some of the issues we had last year.
“You can recruit to that. You’ve got to fit the personality of your team. Our first year fit, our second year fit and last year was a bad concoction on the old chemistry experiment.
“We had to adjust some things and that’s helped us. We’ve got unselfish guys, we’ve got guys who like playing together. So far, so good.”