If the Wolfpack is going to be successful in 2009-2010, there will need to be a few questions answered. One of which being "Who will fill the 3 spot?" With the departure of Brandon Costner, and CJ Williams moving to what looks like a full time SG role, Sidney Lowe will likely look to Johnny Thomas, who's knee injuries kept him sidelined his entire first, and a majority of his second season with the Wolfpack. However, after an off-season of intense rehabbing, he is ready to show Wolfpack Nation just what a healthy Johnny Thomas is capable of. We caught up with Johnny to see exactly what he's been doing this off-season to prepare for the coming season.
WPH: Johnny, could you tell us a little bit about yourself off the court?
JT: "I like drawing and architectural design a lot. I pretty much like to relaxing when I get the chance. I like drawing buildings and stuff like that. I'm going to graduate next summer, a year early, so I'll have 2 years to do other stuff and I probably will get into architecture."
WPH: That's really cool... best of luck with that. Now, let's talk a little about these past few years. I think it's fair to say they've been pretty tough for you with the constant knee injuries and not being able to play. Can you talk about that a little bit?
JT: "Well, it's something that happened at a young age while playing football (Johnny was a QB in high school), so I stopped playing football. I then ended up playing basketball more seriously in the 10th grade, and I got into AAU in the 11th grade. That's when I met Freddy Johnson and I got to know him, and I liked Greensboro Day, so I decided to go and play there. While there my knee was fine, and I wasn't having any trouble with it. Then when I got here I was playing pick-up September 1st in 2007, and I tweaked my knee and it ended up being messed up pretty bad. I had to have surgery to remove a piece that was chipped off and that put me out for a year. It was aggravating, not being able to help the team, but I got used to being patient. It's taught me a lot though. It showed me when to rest an injury and how that is important."
WPH: So you didn't start playing basketball seriously until you were in 10th grade?
JT: "Yeah, I just messed around a lot when I was younger but I just never really thought I'd do anything with it. Then when I got hurt I started to take it more seriously. When I was 14 I played on my brothers team , which was a 19 year old team, and I did really good so that's when people started noticing me."
WPH: So explain your situation with your knee coming into this season. Is it healed, are you good to go?
JT: "Yeah I feel like last year was me getting out there and getting a feel of it. It was hard at first last year going full speed because I had sat out a full season. It was just that my body had to relearn how to do things I used to do, and as that happened I started to feel good and now that that's happened I think I'm going to be great this year and I'm really looking forward to playing."
WPH: It's really looking like, and even Coach mentioned, you and Scott Wood are going to be putting in major minutes this season. How do you feel about stepping into to that type of big time role?
JT: "That definitely what I'm going for. Every player wants to play big minutes, but I'm trying to make a huge impact...I'm trying to start. "
WPH: Is there anything you have to do after practices or games as far as icing your knees or rehabbing?
JT: "There's really nothing I HAVE to do, but it is something that I do. I'm just am so used to it and I do it more as a precaution."
WPH: So with a healthy knee, I'm guessing we can expect a lot more highlight reel dunks. Speaking of dunking, what is your vertical and what is the first time you ever dunked?
JT: "I have a 44 inch vertical right now. I could always dunk...I mean, in middle school I could dunk tennis balls and volleyballs, but my sophomore year I got a lot more confidence and was just trying to dunking everything.
WPH: Do you see a difference in this years team than last years team?
JT: Yeah, oh yeah. This years team is always in the weight room, always a working out. There's always someone in the gym or lifting weights. Previous years we'd prepare but it was more just mandatory stuff, but now everyone is taking their own time and developing their individual game. We're all trying to play pick-up together so we can be close as a team before we take the floor for a game. Like, I was talking to Dennis and saying, us being upperclassmen this is our team and we dictate what goes on. It's up to us to set an example and show the younger guys how its' supposed to be.
WPH: What are some of the main things you are working on this off-season?
JT: "Well, I'm pretty athletic so that in itself puts me ahead of a lot of people. Just my ball handling and shooting. People will be saying "Oh he's not a wing" and all that, so I've been working hard on my ball handling and shooting so when I play next year, I see it as, every shot your teammate gets you is a shot you need to make so I work hard in the off season to give myself the best possible chance to make that shot. I'm just taking this time now to focus on what will happen in the games and try to recreate it in practice so I'll be ready."
WPH: Can you talk about some drills you're doing?
JT: Yeah, I do a lot of up and down dribbling, fast motion dribbling. Sprint, crossover, behind the back, at full speed so my handles will be sharper and faster than they were. I've noticed that my handles have gotten a lot better. My shot too. I used to elevate too high or not lift my elbow, but now I have it down to perfection and have it down to the same motion...it feels a lot better to me.
WPH: A lot of people don't know this, but aside from putting in a lot of time on the court, you also put in a great deal of time into your school work. In fact, you were named 2009 Academic All-ACC. How can you balance both and still be successful?
JT: "For me it wasn't as hard. I came from a school that had good academics, so coming in I kind of over exaggerated the fact, and I didn't want to underestimate it. Then I got hurt and it motivated me to really step up and work harder in school. To me, school isn't really hard if you put the work in and stay on top of things. "
WPH: Lastly, what are your goals for this years team?
JT: "Basically I want to win every game. We are a young team and a lot of people see us as the underdogs, but I think we'll be able to compete with Carolina, we'll be able to compete with Duke, or any team in the ACC. I really have no fears about who we play or where we play them. We're more focused as a unit. It's not just a focus on one guy, and we're all together now. I think there's going to be more chemistry."