WHEN HE isn't spinning in the paint for the Washington Wizards, Etan Thomas often spends his time trying to turn a phrase. Thomas developed an interest in writing poetry while at Syracuse, and in March his 34-poem collection More Than an Athlete was published by Moore Black Press. "I try to write about things that are relevant to young people," he says. "My mother's a teacher, and if I wasn't playing basketball, I'd be teaching."
Thomas, 27, regularly visits inner-city schools and juvenile detention centers to run poetry clinics. His poems are often politically charged, and in the foreword to his book activist poet Abiodun Oyewole says Thomas's poems are like "bareknuckles, no gloves to soften the blows." After playing for Wizards coach Doug Collins, Thomas dedicated a poem to him titled Haters. "You never wanted me to make it/Did everything in your power to conquer my spirit," Thomas wrote. He isn't always angry, though; in My First Love, he describes basketball as "smoother than a miles davis blue note." -- Jaime Lowe