POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Feb 22, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 1:51 a.m. HST, Feb 22, 2011
Joston Thomas isn't going anywhere, except back to practice.
The sophomore forward reaffirmed his commitment to the Hawaii men's basketball team last night after an excused absence of nearly a week. The gap, believed to be about Thomas' role on the team, raised fears he would leave.
Nope. Whatever differences existed between Thomas and UH coach Gib Arnold seem to have been hammered out. The 6-foot-7, 235-pound Thomas, one of UH's more versatile players, will return to UH team practice this morning, Arnold said last night.
"I just felt that Joston had to do a little bit of thinking, put the team first, and in our conversations over the last few days, we said a lot and he's willing to give that his best effort and do that," Arnold said. "If that's the case, he's welcome back to the team under those circumstances. I expect him to be a great teammate, continue to progress and help us in any role he has."
The sixth-place Rainbow Warriors (15-10, 5-7 Western Athletic Conference) should have their third-leading scorer (10.4) and rebounder (5.8) available for their final two home games of the season. UH takes on last-place Louisiana Tech (12-16, 2-10) on Thursday and second-place New Mexico State (14-13, 8-4) on Saturday.
"Feels good to get back to my team," Thomas said.
Thomas' minutes vacillated from 40 minutes at Boise State four games ago to 9 minutes against Nevada two games ago. He wasn't brought on the team's Bracket Busters road trip to UC Davis last weekend, an 83-69 UH win. Thomas, who missed his first game of the season, said he was glad the team won and that being away was "kind of tough."
When asked about playing time, he was diplomatic.
"Some games you're going to play 40 minutes, some games you're going to play 4 minutes. You just gotta learn to work around it and still be productive," Thomas said. "I'm in the same place (mentally), handling the situation of growing and becoming a professional. ... We're getting better as a team and as a whole, and that's the only thing that matters."
Thomas was excused from team sessions before and after the Davis trip. It was an eerily similar situation to that of guard Anthony Salter last semester in the days before Salter and Jordan Coleman left the team for playing-time reasons. But this uncertainty played out in the opposite fashion.
"Joston has brought us a lot of positive things, no doubt about it," Arnold said. "I just think Joston's going to be a better player and we're going to be a better team having gone through this little stretch right here."
UH senior point guard Hiram Thompson, the other regular starter not to play in the Rainbows' win at UC Davis, is still optimistic he can return from the arm injury he suffered last week.
"As soon as possible," said Thompson, who has partially torn ligaments around his left elbow. "I want to be back before the season ends. Hope that I can get out there."
Thompson will still wear a sling on his left arm while he rehabs.