Thomas ready for bigger role in senior year

Bob Reynolds, Staff Reporter

Eastern women’s basketball player Arnisha Thomas is ready to take on a bigger role for this season.

Thomas, a senior, came off the bench last season in 27-of-28 games and averaged around 12.9 minutes a game. She averaged 3.9 points per game and shot 40 percent from the floor.

Last season, Thomas had two games where she had double-digit points. In the game against St. Louis, Thomas had 12 points and later in the season, Thomas scored 16 points against Tennessee-Martin.

This season, Thomas is projected to be one of the starters, according to her coach Debbie Black, and Thomas thinks she is ready.

“I have just been working,” she said. “I am my own worst enemy because it will take my coaches and my teammates to say ‘Oh, you’re doing good, you’re getting better.’ I didn’t see it before, but now I can see it. [Black] will give me confidence and that is helping me.”

Black expects Thomas to be a big contributor to her team this season because of her skills on the court.

“She is a big guard for us,” Black said. “We haven’t had that. She is quick and athletic, and she can defend. The biggest thing for Arnisha is to stay consistent. We expect some big things from her this year.”

Thomas transferred to Eastern last season following a year at Illinois Valley College and a year prior to that at Marshalltown Community College in Iowa.

With having options to play basketball at other schools down south, Thomas said she chose Eastern because she did not want to be that far away from her hometown in Milwaukee, Wisc., among other things.

“I thought they had a good basketball program,” she said. “I like the atmosphere here. It’s not too big, it’s not too small. My time being here, I have grown closer to the team.”

She added that she wishes she got to Eastern sooner because of the different style of basketball that is played, but playing those two years in a community college helped her grow as a person.

Thomas, along with Deanna Willis and Sabina Oroszova, are the three seniors on the team and with all the young players on the team this season, she said she is ready to be a leader.

“I have a very unique personality,” she said. “I know for a fact that I can bring that because my coaches tell me all the time. I am very loud and I think we need that. I am getting used to it and I am trying to do it with the help of Sabi.”

Black added that Thomas has matured in her time at Eastern and she expects her to lead by example.

“She is very outgoing, very outspoken. The young players look up to her,” Black said. “She is going to be a leader both on and off the court, and just to help some of those younger players come along. She had to do it the hard way, and I think she understands that.”

Thomas has been playing basketball since she was five years old.

She said the reason she wanted to play basketball is because of her brothers.

“They used to play all the time,” she said. “I said ‘I want to play. Don’t leave me out.’ They made me want to play. As time progressed, it never left my side.”

Thomas said that the one person that has been the biggest influence on her basketball career is her current coach.

“She believes in me,” she said. “She told me that I am getting it. That gives me the push I need. To have someone believe in you, everyone wants that. She tells me all the time that I can be that go-to player.”

Black said that her and Thomas butt heads at times, but for the right reason.

“She wants to win, and I want to make her better,” she said. “We have the same goals. It is fun to have her in the gym. I think you are going to see a different, more confident player this year. “

Bob Reynolds can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]