Providence native Sebastian Thomas has found a home in Kingston (Photo: URI Athletics)
By NICK SIMEONE
It’s not often that the University of Rhode Island men’s basketball team has a true, blue Rhode Island native on its roster. That is the case this season, however, in the person of freshman Sebastian Thomas.
The former Bishop Hendricken guard has carved out a role in the Rams’ rotation and is making progress every day. This week I had the opportunity to speak with Sebastian about his time before URI and his future with the Rams:
Sebastian grew up in South Providence, where he spent most of his childhood. Before attending Hendricken, he went to Community Prep for middle school. The lefty guard led Hendricken to a R.I. Division I title in 2019-20, averaging 23.5 points per game. He credits his cousin, Lamonte Thomas, with being a major inspiration for his basketball career.
Lamonte was a big star in Rhode Island made a name for himself at Johnson and Wales University where he broke a host of school records. Thomas poured in 2,740 points, which was the fourth most in Division III basketball history. In his senior season Thomas averaged 34.1 points per game, the eighth-highest total in NCAA history. Thomas has played professionally in Germany, Qatar, Portugal, and Spain, including leading Germany and Spain in scoring. He once tallied 54 points in a game in Germany and won a title with Alcazar de San Juan.
“I would say my cousin inspired me a lot.” Sebastian said. “I was able to learn and watch him play at Johnson & Wales throughout his college career which was exciting growing up being able to see my older cousin have the success he had.”
He also credited the vision provided by ex-Providence College guards Ricky Ledo and David Duke as inspirations for his game. Both were Providence natives who left high school basketball with big reputations and top 50 national rankings. Ledo never did play college basketball due to academic issues, while Duke was a three-year star for the Friars and now plays for the Brooklyn Nets.
“(Ricky) went to Hendricken, then went on to Providence. He made the NBA and now plays overseas,” Thomas said. “What (David Duke) has been able to accomplish so far making the NBA, and producing when given the opportunity. It’s just inspiring to see guys like that be able to go to such high levels with the game of basketball because Rhode Island doesn’t get too much attention in the basketball world.”
It’s important to Sebastian that Rhode Island gets attention for its athletics. Hendricken alumni Kwity Paye (Indianapolis Colts) and Rocco Baldelli (Minnesota Twins manager) are making impacts in their respective sports, and there are now multiple Rhode Island athletes playing Division I basketball, football, baseball and other sports.
“I feel like we have guys that are good enough to compete at (a high) level. We don’t get looked at as much as New York or Massachusetts and that was one reason I came to URI,” Thomas said. “I felt like I can be an influence on the younger generation. I think right now there are numerous professionals to come out of Rhode Island, and I think it’s given the younger generation more hope.”
Thomas was originally going to redshirt but he has made an immediate impact on the Rams. When asked when he knew he could play with his new teammates in Kingston, he said, “there was about a month where I felt I was playing at a high level in practice. One day one of my coaches was dropping me off at class and I remember him saying ‘you’re making it hard for us to redshirt you.’ I didn’t think too much of it because I still wanted to redshirt even though I was doing well. I would say during that month when we started to go live (in practice) I knew I could play this year and make an impact.”
Now that he has accomplished his goal of playing for his home state University, Sebastian has set more goals for both himself and the team. “Some of the goals I have for URI are to win an A-10 Championship and make it into March Madness. I just want to win. I feel like this year for me is not about getting freshman of the year, or rookie team. My stats aren’t where I want them to be, but I just try and take advantage whenever an opportunity presents itself. The coaching staff knows what I bring to the team, and I know how valuable I am to this team. My main goal is to go out and contribute to winning.”
Being a freshman on the team has opened Sebastian up to the usual teasing from his teammates, who usually refer to him as ‘young pup.’ “I think my teammates would describe me as someone willing to put in the work, day in and day out, and someone who wants to learn, and can take criticism… (my teammates) know every day I’m going to not only learn from them but also compete and push them to be their best.”
Off the court, Sebastian is studying sports communication. His hobbies include watching TV shows, movies, sports, and playing video games. He also cherishes his family and friends.
“What motivates me is just my friends and family,” he said. “Seeing how hard my parents work, and seeing how much they sacrificed for me to be in the position I’m in. Also, my friends have been there for me every step of the way. Eventually, I just want to be able to give back to them.”
It is hard not to root for Sebastian Thomas, the local kid with a chip on his shoulder. Although he says his stats aren’t where he would like them to be, he has been extremely impactful for the Rams in ways that may not lead to points or assists. He has yet to commit a turnover in conference play and is improving every single day. Starters Jeremy Sheppard and Ishmael El-Amin will both be moving on from the program after this year, so Rhody fans should keep an eye on the local guy in the coming seasons.