Jan. 20, 2005
By Alison Fleck
The Santa Clara
As leading scorer, three-point record breaker, and the only senior on the Santa Clara women's basketball team, Quinn Thomas is a threat to anyone who plays against her. All her coaches admit she is tough to beat because of her physical and mental toughness on the court.
"Quinn has been tremendous," Head Coach Michelle Bento-Jackson said. "She leads by her actions and has the ability to play any position we put her in."
After being placed on the All-West Coast Conference First Team and breaking the Santa Clara career record for three-point field goals with a total of 161 last year, Thomas wants to finish her basketball career the way she started it -- as a pivotal player on the team.
Thomas already is this year's leading scorer and has just recently netted her 200th career three-pointer against Portland on Jan. 8.
A recent position switch from guard to forward has been an offensive tactic to force opposing teams into a struggle to guard her.
"It is to our advantage to have her play as a forward and have teams have to chase our guard because she's got the talent to play all over the court," Assistant Coach Steve Drake said. "She's fast and tough both mentally and physically and this makes it harder for teams to defend her."
Coach Bento-Jackson says that playing defense is a challenge for Thomas because she's not really a defensive player, but Thomas embraces it. It allows her to work on her other skills besides just shooting, which is what she says she is best at.
"My role used to be shooting from the outside all the time," Thomas said. "But now my role as a forward has expanded me to focus more on rebounding and defending."
Coach Bento-Jackson said that Thomas was the team's leading rebounder earlier this season.
Thomas attributes her strong skills to her siblings. She is the youngest of five children, hence her name "Quinn."
Following in her sister Erin's footsteps, who played basketball and won the state championship in high school, Thomas knew that basketball was what she wanted to pursue throughout high school and college.
"That's why I'm No. 30," Thomas said. "Because that was her number and she was my role model growing up."
Erin explained how she would play against her sister everyday in their backyard and how most of the time Quinn would beat her.
"She really proved herself to be an awesome athlete," Erin said. "When I was playing basketball in junior college, she was just a sophomore on her high school team, but we would play one-on-one and she would whup me!"
In junior high, Thomas' brothers would always challenge the older boys to a game of basketball and would pick Thomas to be on their team because they knew she could nail three-pointer after three-pointer. The ninth-grade boys wouldn't guard her because she was just a girl. But she proved them wrong by making her shots.
"I'd say I'm best at shooting threes," Thomas said. "When I was little that was all I would shoot. I would chuck it from my knees and everyone would say, what is that girl doing?"
But Thomas wasn't only talented on the court -- she also had skills on the soccer field. Her older brothers were soccer players and she played with them.
When she was 10, she played on a 12-year-old boys soccer team. Because she had very short hair, hardly anyone knew she was a girl, her mother explained.
But soccer became too stressful for Thomas because it became too much of a business instead of a game. By ninth grade, she decided to focus on basketball. She soon began to pursue a collegiate scholarship for basketball.
"It was hard to choose basketball over soccer because I always thought I was better at soccer," Thomas said. "But I liked basketball. I liked the unpredictability of the game: how somebody could be up, then the other team, and the fast pace of the game."
Thomas played guard for head coach Derek Powell at Kent Meridian High School in Kent, Wash., and was named one of USA Today's top 25 players for the state of Washington. She was also named MVP as a junior and senior.
She was then heavily recruited by schools such as Gonzaga, University of California at Berkeley and Santa Clara. She chose Santa Clara because she had already played on a club team with former Broncos Jenny Rondel, Kim Butler and Julie Butler.
"It felt like home here," Thomas said.
At Santa Clara, she made an impact immediately as a freshman by tying the school record when she made all five three-point attempts. She was 7-for-7 overall from the field for 19 points against Gonzaga in the WCC game opener.
She continued to play in more than 30 contests and played in the NCAA first round game against LSU. This was one of her most memorable moments of playing basketball.
"The NCAA tournament is something people watch on television," Thomas said. "It was a great experience getting to play in it despite losing because we had made it to that level."
As a sophomore, Thomas had 30 starts and earned All-WCC honorable mention honors.
Her junior year she had an inflammation of her lower back, which caused her to miss four games, but she still made a huge impact in the WCC season by breaking the school record and scoring at least 10.5 points per game.
Being the only senior allows Thomas to see the game differently and understand it better than her teammates. She knows what to expect and leads by example.
"I have coached Quinn for three years," Bento-Jackson said. "And I know that she'll do whatever I ask of her. That is something you want in an athlete."
Off the court, Thomas is a communication major with plans to become a nutritionist and a personal trainer. She wants to go back to school in Washington to be closer to home. However, her mother bets that Thomas will remain involved with basketball in some way even after graduation.
"She loves the sport too much and knows so much about the game to simply just stop it," Joanne Thomas said. "She'd be an awesome coach."
Thomas is reluctant to leave basketball at Santa Clara. She has played since fourth grade and considers her teammates her sisters. At first, she said it felt strange to be the only senior because she has no one to look up to like she did when she was a freshman, yet she accepts her new role and is honored that her younger teammates view her as a role model. She just hopes no one forgets her.
"I am nervous that everyone will just forget about me because I'm the only one leaving," Thomas said. "I won't have that security or that sense of family my team gives me anymore. I've never gone a day without thinking about basketball."
* Contact Alison Fleck at 408-551- 1918 or [email protected]