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Sam Thomas’ road to the biggest stage

In Thomas’ first year, UArizona Women’s Basketball won six games
Published: Apr. 4, 2021 at 10:32 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -”My child is playing in the national championship game” is not a phrase many parents can say, but Sam Thomas’ parents can.

But, Sam’s dad, Derek Thomas says his daughter’s road to get to the biggest stage in college basketball was a windy one-one that frazzled her during her freshman year.

“When you believe in a program, you can go as far as you want,” said Sam.

Sam has believed since day one of season one, a season that brought just six wins and a whole lot more losses with it.

Flashback to five years ago, when Sam chose to play basketball at the University of Arizona- a school with a less than impressive record on paper at the time- over more successful ones because of a single text message.

“It got down to Michigan and them in the 11th hour and I told Sam, shut your phones off don’t talk to any of your family or your friends,” said Derek. “I said go call each one of the coaches and see when your done come and tell me and that’s where you’re going. "

Then Adia Barnes happened.

“I sent her a message at like midnight, I don’t even know why I was doing that as a high school,” said Sam. “But she sent me this long message about what she can do for me off the court which I never really thought about as a recruit. She said I’m going to take care of you no matter what even after you’re done playing for me,” said Sam. “I think that’s what really sold me.”

At its core is much more simple than basketball- it’s about a woman reaching out to another telling her she cares.

“She came in and she started crying she said I just trust Adia and what she’s doing and what she’s going to do for me,” said Derek.

Barnes has stayed true to that text message she sent years ago. She’s given Sam the opportunity to be a leader since her freshman year - not just on the court but off of it.

“I never expected myself to finish college with a 3.97 [GPA] or so far getting a 4.0 now in grad school,” said Sam. I am a leader in a lot of clubs on campus, never in my life did I think I would do anything like that. Her giving me the confidence to go out and pursue stuff like that, that’s one thing that ill always take from her,” said Sam.

So, in four years the program has changed dramatically from six wins to the biggest stage in college basketball but, so has Sam.

She’s a senior this year and when this is all over she has options- Sam says Nike has a position waiting for her if she wants it but, Derek says she may want to play some professional basketball in the states or overseas. For now, Sam’s focus is on the big game tomorrow.

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