Grayslake North hoopster helps power team to sizzling start
Jamal Thomas is the engine for the Grayslake North boys basketball team.
As a 5-10 senior point guard, Thomas averages 21 points, eight assists and five rebounds in leading his team to a 4-1 record.
''We are a team that likes to get up and down the court as much as possible, and Jamal has the ability to lead us in transition, even when the other team scores,’’ Grayslake North coach Todd Grunloh told the Lake County Gazette. ''He has tremendous endurance, which allows him to push the ball at our pace for a full 32 minutes. He is a strong kid that also has a great touch around the basket.’’
Grunloh said the best thing about Thomas is that he is a team player.
''When you watch Jamal, you will always notice that it is not just about Jamal – he is always setting up his teammates and putting them in position to succeed as well,'' Grunloh said.
Thomas knows he has a lot to work on.
''I work on finding my open teammates, and I have been working on my shot,’’ Thomas said. ''I have also been working on my defense.’’
Grunloh said he is especially happy at how much progress Thomas has made defensively.
''One of the things that I am most proud of is how much better Jamal has become on the defensive side of the court’’’ Grunloh said. ''When he first transferred, he was a work in progress on defense, and he has really pushed himself to become a better defender.’’
Thomas transferred to Grayslake North during his sophomore year from his home in Pontiac, Michigan. His mother received a promotion to the Chicago area through her job at Volkswagen credit.
Thomas did not play with the basketball team until his junior year, but the year off was beneficial.
‘’I played in open gym with guys on the team, and it helped me get used to them,’’ Thomas said.
Grunloh also said the time off helped Thomas.
‘’I think what helped Jamal is that he transferred in April of his sophomore year, so that allowed him to be more acclimated with our school and his teammates, which he was able to become more comfortable with in open gyms,’’ Grunloh said. ‘’He took that a step further and continued to understand what we do as a program throughout summer camp, and by the time we started basketball in November of his junior year, he was completely comfortable with his surroundings and with what we expected him to do on the basketball court.’’
Besides being talented on the court, Grunloh said Thomas has something else going for him.
‘’I’m not sure I have met a high school kid that is more caring and more respectful than Jamal," Grunloh said. "The great thing about Jamal is that this applies to his teachers, his coaches, his teammates, opponents, etc. He is a very hard-working, humble kid."
Thomas has the majority of his senior year ahead of him and hopes to lead his team to another 20-win season and a possible sectional title.
After his high school career, Thomas said he would like to go to college and play some college ball.
Thomas said he has been contacted by St. Norbert’s.
Grunloh said Thomas is a solid student and that he hears nothing but compliments about him.
"His teachers are always willing to let me know how respectful he is in class and how hard he works," Grunloh said. "As a coach, it is always gratifying to hear that your athletes are buying into the student-athlete mentality."