Juco champ Thomas signs with Vikings

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While fellow Horizon League contenders Green Bay and Youngstown State landed most of the big recruiting prizes early in the offseason (literally, in the case of new YSU pivot Emily Saunders), Cleveland State has come on strong of late with three additions of their own. The latest significant piece to sign on with the Vikings – as announced on her Instagram account on Tuesday – is Shadiya Thomas, a guard from the Houston suburb of Cypress, TX.

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In 2020-21, Thomas’ first college basketball stop was the Air Force Academy, not a place that typically accepts academic underachievers, though she ultimately didn’t get on the floor a ton for the Falcons.

From there she moved back to her home state and enrolled at Tyler Junior College for the 2021-22 season. While a juco year, generally, is an opportunity to reset and coordinate the next move, it became a bit more than that for Thomas.

The Apaches went a very solid 23-7 during the regular season, though that mark included losses in three of their final four games and was followed by a quick defeat to Angelina College at the Region XIV Tournament. Things abruptly pivoted back to the positive side of the ledger when the NJCAA Division I Tournament started in Lubbock, TX though, as 17th-seeded Tyler rattled off five wins in a six-day span to take home the national title.

The most encouraging part of that for Vikings fans? Thomas’ play when the stakes were highest. During an all-tournament team performance, she was on the floor for all but 18 minutes of the five games and shot 23-for-54 from the field (8-for-19 from three) and averaged 14 points per game. The 5-8 sophomore also registered 19 assists and pulled down 19 rebounds during the championship run, as Tyler won by at least 12 points each time out after an overtime scare in the opener against Chipola.

For the season, Thomas had 138 assists, good for 17th nationally, at a solid 1.6 assist-to-turnover ratio. While the combo guard is a good fit in most perimeter roles with her ability to attack the rim on top of sound defense, her track record seems to indicate that she may be another option at the point, as CSU possibly looks to get Destiny Leo back off the ball a bit more in 2022-23.

Prior to her time in Colorado Springs, Thomas starred at Cypress Ranch High School, including a pair of all-district team nods. She was also an alternate to the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches all-state team, and helped the Mustangs to the Texas state tournament as a freshman.

The Vikings’ roster, thanks to the recent additions of Thomas, Carmen Villalobos, and Sara Guerreiro, is now quickly filling up at a projected 13 players as CSU joins the list of HLWBB teams that are at or near capacity.

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