Thomas drives to the futurePublished 5:22pm Saturday, January 25, 2014
King’s Fork High School sophomore Latonia Thomas gave the Lady Bulldogs a glimpse of their future recently.
In a busy week of four games, spanning from Jan. 14 to 18, she seized the opportunity of expanded minutes in three straight blowout wins and earned Duke Automotive-Suffolk News-Herald Player of the Weeks honors.
Thomas scored 11 points on Jan. 14 against host Phoebus High School and 10 on Jan. 17 against visiting Denbigh High School. In between those efforts on Jan. 15, she registered a double-double against visiting Lakeland High School, with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
“I felt great,” she said of her performances. “I felt as if I went out and did my best that I can do, and I feel like my team helps me as well.”
Lady Bulldogs head coach Maurice Fofana was unsurprised by her scoring outburst, because he can see her potential and her drive.
“One of the keys to her success is her work ethic,” he said. “She works hard. When she’s in the game, she plays hard.”
He said a key to her improvement will be to properly harness that hard-playing mentality so she can avoid foul trouble, to which she has been prone.
Thomas’ aggressiveness prompted her mother, Laronda Thomas, to steer her toward basketball at an early age.
Latonia tried cheerleading, softball and soccer. But, she said, “Basketball is where I could be very aggressive.”
Laronda Thomas said, “She was very aggressive as a 5-year-old on the basketball court. She had no skills, she was just all over the place.”
Living in Portsmouth at the time, Latonia said, “I started playing (recreational basketball), and I really liked it. I got (Most Valuable Player) three years in a row when I played rec, and we won the championship five years in a row.”
After moving to Suffolk, she joined an Amateur Athletic Union team called the Suffolk Lady Blazers. She now has four years of AAU experience and plays for a Boo Williams summer league team.
Latonia began playing for the King’s Fork junior varsity team in eighth grade.
Her King’s Fork experience athletically and academically has benefited from her friendship with Jazlyn Dunn, a fellow sophomore at King’s Fork. They have pushed each other to make good grades and to try out for sports.
Dunn convinced Thomas to join the varsity volleyball team, and Thomas convinced Dunn to get back into basketball. King’s Fork athletics have benefited from the result.
Fofana described what Latonia brings to the basketball team.
“She’s a hundred miles an hour,” he said. “You cut your motorcycle on and it’s on full blast, and that’s just the way she is.”
He said she can play down low, because she’s physical, and she handles the ball pretty well, enabling her to fill a guard spot.
In addition to her avoiding fouls, he hopes to see her perimeter shooting improve and for her to become a student of the game.
This aligns with Latonia’s main goal: “I want to be better than I was when I started,” she said.
“I look for her to be great for the King’s Fork program in the upcoming years,” Fofana said.
Laronda Thomas has enjoyed her daughter’s basketball career from the beginning until now.
“I could see the potential and the growth, so I’m very proud of her,” she said. “I think she’s hard-working and dedicated.”
A note about nominations:
Nearly all of Suffolk’s high school sports activity was suspended this week because of the weather.
With the high school athletes sidelined by the snow, there were no standout performances to result in nominations for the Duke Automotive-Suffolk News-Herald Player of the Week.
Nominations will appear again next Sunday.