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Starting anew

Former Hart standout Tatianna Thomas starts in Pac-10 six years after beginning career

Posted: February 24, 2009 12:42 a.m.
Updated: February 24, 2009 4:55 a.m.

In this undated photo, Oregon wing and former Hart High School standout Tatianna Thomas takes the ball to the hoop.

 
The thought of starting something new can be daunting.

For University of Oregon sophomore basketball player Tatianna Thomas, all it took was a first step.

Six years after starting her basketball career as a freshman at Bishop Alemany High of Mission Hills, the Hart graduate finds herself starting in the Pacific-10 Conference.

On Nov. 15, Thomas started in the Ducks' season-opening 69-68 win over San Jose State at Walt McPherson Court in San Jose.

She scored two points with five assists, two rebounds and a steal in 27 minutes.

If it wasn't difficult beginning her career, making the jump to Division I basketball certainly was.

"The game was so much faster, the girls were so much stronger and you just had to be much more fundamentally sound to do anything on the court," Thomas says.

Because of injuries, including those of fellow Hart graduate Taylor Lilley, she has spent time starting at shooting guard and small forward this season, averaging three points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists over 17.3 minutes.

In order to catch up her game, Thomas says she would scrimmage against men whenever she could, a practice that Oregon head coach Bev Smith continued in the offseason prior to this year.

"She has matured and she has grown, and for a college coach that is what you hope to see in your players," Smith says.

But ultimately, what does it take to accomplish what Thomas has?

Hard work and taking it one step at a time.

"Always set goals," she says. "Once you reach that goal, you have to reach for something further, and that's where you get where you are."

It started out simple - get this amount of rebounds, play that amount of minutes, hold the opponent to this number of points.

Sure the 5-foot-11-inch guard/forward was blessed with athleticism, but it is the recognition of her talents and finding the best way to utilize them that has taken her to the next level.

It has not been easy.

She says that her entire freshman year of high school, she did nothing but conditioning.

"It was a gradual progression from running to shooting and other basketball skills," she says.

The goals became increasingly extensive and eventually, she was able to cash in her hard work.

To date, she has started eight games and played in all 26 of the Ducks' games this season, matching up with such teams as AP No. 4 Stanford, No. 5 California and No. 25 Arizona State.

"It's not really about starting or playing," Thomas says. "Of course everybody wants to play or start. At this level its all about winning games."

Her story lends itself to a mentality she conveys when talking with her.

Everything you do, do it with a purpose.

Even her decision to play at Oregon plays into the attitude.

In Eugene, she says she can learn and study anything and the fact that the university is the No. 1 Nike school in the country thanks to Ducks alumnus and Nike founder Phil Knight, opportunity is certainly there.

Basketball has become her method of getting to next level, beyond the court.


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