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The proof arrived on Oct. 12 in front of a crowd of over 15,000 at the FedEx Forum. Tigers sophomore forward Adonis Thomas had launched about 2,000 long-range shots a week during the summer and early fall, trying to improve his already deft outside touch. Though he had never competed in a three-point-shooting contest before, Thomas—who attempted only 37 threes last year—blew away the field at Memphis Midnight Madness, burying 17 of 20 three-point attempts.
"Adonis is already playing and shooting at a very high level," says Josh Pastner, who in his three seasons as the Tigers' coach has led Memphis to two NCAA tournament berths, both of which ended in opening-round defeats. "His best basketball is ahead of him. He's going to be a big part of what we do this season, but I really like our entire team. No question, we have great potential." The Tigers will feature three former McDonald's All-Americans on their roster: junior guard Joe Jackson, freshman forward Shaq Goodwin and Thomas, a 6'8", 238-pound potential lottery pick.
Last season was a disappointment for Thomas. One of the top recruits in the nation coming out of Melrose High in Memphis, he suffered a left-ankle injury, underwent surgery and missed 15 games. He returned on March 8 but then was held to six points in a 61--54 NCAA tournament loss to Saint Louis. Having considered declaring for the NBA draft—he most likely would have been a late-first-round choice—Thomas moves this year from power forward to small forward, his natural position. From the wing he will be a threat to both drive hard to the rim and, thanks to all those off-season hours in the gym, pull up for a three.
"I wanted to give the NBA scouts a chance to see all of my skills," Thomas says of his decision to return to Memphis. "Plus, we believe we can make a run in the tournament. We have as much talent as anyone."
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