Lake Forest boys basketball coach Phil LaScala remembers when it really hit him just how much upside there was in Asa Thomas.
“The second game of his career (as a freshman) we played St. Ignatius and he had like (22) points, 14 in the second half in clutch time,” LaScala said. “It’s one of those things like ‘wow, we have something special here.’”
Thomas was reeling in big offer after big offer in the summer of 2021 following his sophomore year, with DePaul, Illinois, Iowa, Marquette, Minnesota, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin all all extending official offers.
Thursday, Thomas (Class of 2023) made his commitment to the ACC’s Clemson Tigers and coach Brad Brownell.
“I love the coaching staff there,” Thomas said. “Coach Brownell and Coach (Billy) Donlon are two outstanding coaches and I know my game can expand under their wing. And on top of all that, I get the chance to play in one of the best conferences in the country every night. Also Clemson’s strong academic reputation was also a big factor in my decision. It’s an ideal combination of academics and athletics for me.
His trip to Clemson, South Carolina, a college town of under 17,000 souls, was pleasant one.
Lemont would be the closest Illinois city by population in comparison.
“The visit was great,” Thomas said. “I was able to meet some of the guys and get a feel for how life is as a player. It just felt right when I was walking around the facilities and the campus. It was a great time.”
Last season, the then-junior guard/wing was dropping big scoring totals, scoring 40 vs. Bulls College Prep and compiling stat lines often consisting of a handful of rebounds and assists. He reached the 1,000 career points mark in early February. Thomas was an IBCA first team all-state honoree and a Chicago Sun-Times 3A all-state first team pick a season ago. He led the Scouts to a 27-7 overall, 13-1 record in the North Suburban Conference to claim the NSC title. He also earned conference player of the year honors.
“We’ve had some good offensive players the past couple years that have also been solid contributors and I think this year he’s really going to have to step it up a notch and be that lead guy all the time,” LaScala said.
Thomas also hones his skills playing travel ball with well-known AAU club Illinois Wolves.
“He’s 6-8 now and he can shoot from long range and he gets his shot off really quick,” LaScala said. “He sees the court really well. He passes really well and he’s skilled. When you’re 6-8 and skilled those are hard to come by.”
“He’s a great communicator too. When they (college coaches) come in to watch practices and stuff like that, they watch how he communicates with his teammates and he’s an unbelievable leader.”
Thomas seems well aware how much will be on his shoulders heading into the season.
“I just want to go out there and get better everyday with my high school teammates,” Thomas said. “We have a great squad this year and my goal is to go out and win a state championship.”
“I think the best is yet to come for him as far as the things he can do and I think this year,” LaScala said. “He’s… he’s really going to start to take over and dominate.”hm