Often times, they say bad things happen to good people. This couldn’t be more true than in the late summer of the NBA offseason, when fringe summer league players have the chance to sign with teams. Often times, careers in the NBA don’t pan out immediately, so players book it internationally.
In some cases, a trip overseas has worked out for players like Hassan Whiteside and Serge Ibaka, among others. However, more likely than not, we may not hear from our favorite mid-major players in a basketball sense, well, ever again. Former New Orleans Honorable Mention All-American and Southland Player of the Year Erik Thomas is one such player currently at the crossroads.
Though he averaged a whopping 19.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game last year and took New Orleans to its first NCAA Tournament since 1996, Thomas only earned a workout invite with the Portland Trail Blazers. He not only remains unsigned by an NBA team, but he didn’t even get a summer league shot.
Thomas likely flew under the radar because of his size. He’s 6’5’’ and 215 pounds, not the ideal build for a power forward in the league. However, he believes that what he lacks in size, he makes up elsewhere.
“I use my speed and my strength to my advantage,” Thomas said.
So what has Thomas been doing to keep his dream alive?
The past two summers he has been working with renowned Seattle trainer Donald Watts, who is known for training Emerald City natives Jamal Crawford and Nate Robinson. He’s also currently playing for Kitsap Admiral in Crawford’s Seattle Pro Am. However, Thomas knows these opportunities may not be enough. He sees two more events as being the true answers to how far his basketball career can go.
“I have the national team in Argentina coming up in August and then I’ll just hit the overseas route,” Thomas said.
Thomas will be trying out for Argentina’s team for the FIBA AmeriCup, an international basketball tournament set to begin Aug. 25. He was born in Entre Rios, Argentina, and his sister Sthefany has played for the Argentinian National Team. Luis Scola and Manu Ginobli are likely to be teammates if he makes the team.
But, Thomas is hoping his basketball career continues past then. He said he is heavily looking into playing overseas and is particularly intrigued by the possibility of playing in Spain.
The good news for Thomas is that he is no stranger to being overlooked. An ACL injury at the end of his high school career caused schools like East Tennessee State and Seattle University to ask him to redshirt or walk-on rather than play immediately.
Instead, he played at both East Georgia State College and Baton Rouge Community College, where his biggest takeaway was adjusting to the type of talent present. Thomas could benefit again overseas by taking the time to adjust to professional ball while receiving more playing time than he would on a G-League team.
At the end of the day, Thomas illustrates that there are so many qualified basketball players that it takes getting creative to see if a professional career is possible.