Ex-Albany State star April Thomas transfers to VSU

Last time April Thomas took the floor under the beamy P.E. Complex lights, she stunned spectators by dropping 27 points during a sensational performance that grabbed the attention of many, especially her new team. Thomas 2

The former Albany State star made an unforeseen decision this past summer to transfer to rival South Region school, Valdosta State, which continues to be both equally supported and chastised.

The Bainbridge native says that her fondness for red and black didn’t happen overnight, in fact, her bottled yearning for VSU has been alive since as long as she can remember.

‘AP’ as her friends call her, credits that love and the chance of national exposure the main reasoning behind her departure.  “Honestly I’ve just always wanted to come here after high school,” the All-SIAC selectee said. “[VSU] was that school that really had my attention and theres a lot of great players here. I’m just happy to be a part of a team with so much talent.”
The daughter of Sharlyn Smith and Lawrence Thomas, began assembling her arsenal on a dilapidated, cracked basketball court outside of her grandmother’s house at six years old.

Older cousins and friends were her first naysayers; they pronounced her too small to be a helpful teammate.She normally found herself not being picked before pick-up games; this is when she developed the chip on her shoulder that inflames her today.
Thomas began playing basketball competitively in the sixth grade at West Bainbridge Middle School. She has started every game since.
Basketball wasn’t the only game that she could display her elusive quickness and speed.
After arriving at Bainbridge High School, she soon found fulfillment testing her limits and participated  in cross country, field and track, softball and soccer.
The juggling required to balance playing four sports while excelling in school became second nature to her.
Thomas, once a starting center-fielder for BHS, was a major contributor on the softball team tying a school record for 15 wins.

The 2010-2011 BHS female senior athlete of the year also led the Lady Cats basketball team to a 21-7 record and a Region 1-AAAA Sub-Region championship.
VSU did recruit Thomas, however, didn’t feel that a player of her 5’1 stature would be versatile enough to earn a scholarship.
The time came for Thomas to make a choice where she would be suiting up next: she chose ASU over Fort Valley, Savannah State, and FAMU.

ASU head coach Robert Skinner is busy trying to refresh his squad for this upcoming season after the crucial loss.

He claims Thomas was the purest scorer he’s had under his 23 year tenure.
Thomas admits her and Skinner’s relationship still is cordial but undeniably altered.
“I have no doubt in my mind that he’s upset about the situation,” the junior transfer said. “We still have a strong relationship. I talked to him when he came over here when they played us in volleyball. He hugged me and everything. We had a nice conversation.”

Skinner’s heart is one of many broken following her startling decision.“I was really upset with myself for hurting him like that then, on top of that, having these other people like ‘why are you leaving?’ or ‘what’s so different from here and over there?’,” Thomas said. “The only person that knows what’s going to happen is God. My dad always told me before you make a decision, pray to him because he won’t lead you down the wrong path.”

Returning Blazer starting guard Kourtnee Williams originally introduced Thomas to her former coach Skinner.The two sparked an instant friendship in high school after competing against each other in an All-Star game together.Now reconnecting with her pal in the backcourt, Thomas arrives to VSU truly qualified for her new mission.

Her freshman year at ASU she garnered the SIAC Freshman of the Year honors averaging 18.5 points a game.Also, that season she was the only freshman named to the Daktronics All-South Region team.Thomas finished fifth in the nation in scoring last season (20.2) which heightened her buzz, echoing her name in talks regarding the nation’s best.
VSU women’s basketball head coach Kiley Hill couldn’t help but crack a smile when he got a phone call from Thomas out of the blue this past summer.“I was very surprised they released her,” Hill said of ASU allowing Thomas to transfer without penalty. “She has a heart of lion. Her work ethic is incredible and she is a major competitor. With a personality like that, it’s good for the culture, that’s why we wanted to embrace her.”
 Both of Thomas’ seasons as a Ram concluded in the same fashion: being bounced out the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.The Lady Blazers hope their newly added play maker was the missing remedy to cure them from their own recent postseason queasiness.
VSU fell short last season falling in the Division II Sweet Sixteen game. Hill has twiddled his thumbs, trying to conjure up the best ways to defend Thomas; now he’s thrilled to coach someone who garners such talent. The same mind-boggling talent that he once struggled to suppress.
By Eric Jackson

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