By Logan Lowery
After appearing in all 32 games as a true freshman last year, Mississippi State wing Fred Thomas understood that he needed to get stronger as a sophomore to go through the grind of college basketball.
Thomas arrived in Starkville weighing just 180 pounds but has since packed on 26 pounds to his 6-foot-5 frame.
“I worked pretty hard this summer to get my body right and gain weight,” Thomas said. “I think it’s made me a better rebounder. I’m playing better defense and can be more aggressive throughout the whole game.”
Thomas was the Bulldogs’ second-leading returning scorer after averaging 9.7 points a year ago as a freshman. He not only spent the offseason bulking up but also working to become a more complete player.
“Fred Thomas is a different person at this point in time,” said MSU coach Rick Ray. “I’m really happy with the jumps that he’s made in his game so far.”
One area where Ray wanted to see improvement was in shot selection. Thomas took 172 shots from the perimeter as a freshman making just 23.8 percent but has made the extra pass more often this season instead of jacking up a 3-pointer.
“I pass up a lot of open shots because I’m really unselfish,” Thomas said. “I like to help get other people open and get them shots because I know that I can get a shot anytime.”
The former Jim Hill standout has had a variety of responsibilities for the Bulldogs during his year-and-a-half tenure. Thomas has started 27 of the 45 games in which he has played and has injected adrenaline on both ends of the floor even in a supporting role.
“I’m still going to provide the same kind of energy coming off the bench as when I start,” Thomas said. “It’s all the same. I just come out and play hard for my team.”
Thomas was reinserted into the starting lineup following the mid-semester transfer of Dre Applewhite. He has averaged 32 minutes in the last two games.
“Coach said that somebody has to step up and play more minutes so I just have to go out there and play hard,” Thomas said.
Thomas has made eight starts on the year missing one game due to an NCAA mandated suspension for his participation in a charity all-star game over the summer. He is averaging 7.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and is second on the team with 17 3-pointers.