21 Aug What the Hell Happened to…Jamel Thomas?
For the fourth time (after Conley, Abdul-Aziz, Herren) but what won’t be the last (Mike James has a book out there and Acie Earl has told me he has an Ebook so we’ll see where they go) we remember a former-Celtic-turned author. For the second time (after this guy) but definitely not the last time, we remember someone whose cousin not only played for the Celtics (Stephon Marbury) but so did his brother as well (Sebastian Telfair). You definitely remember Jamel Thomas.
I remember first seeing Thomas play at Providence. The guy I thought of? Lamond Murray, no doubt. His ability to get to the basket and quick first step were impressive but he also had a sound fundamental aspect to his game which included strong perimeter shooting and a nice touch from the foul line. He was like Murray in that the game seemed to come easy to him.
Rewind back to Lincoln HS in Brooklyn’s Head Coach Bobby Harsteins’s gym with the usual 8th grade prospects there. Harstein knew Marbury for sure, highly heralded from a long-line of basketball lineage so he didn’t bother to ask him to identify himself. Coach Harstein wanted to know about his taller friend with him:
“Who’s that?” Hartstein asked.“My cousin Jamel,” Marbury answered.“How does he do in school?”“He doesn’t go to school, Coach.”“What do you mean he doesn’t go to school?”“Well, he doesn’t go every day.”“Where does he think he’s going to high school?”“Right here, Coach.”“Well, he’s going to school every single day if he thinks he’s going toplay basketball for Lincoln.”
Jamel didn’t wind up going to school every day but one particular day, in English class, when he refused to complete the essay portion of an exam, he made an indelible mark on teacher Lenore Braverman. Braverman asked Thomas if he wanted to live with her and her husband in their home in Rockaway Park away from all the crime, drugs, away from the “struggle”. What do a middle-class Jewish family know about raising a black teenager? Coach Hartstein thought it was an outstanding idea but insisted on running it past the Marbury and Telfair families. They were skeptical at best thinking that the Braverman’s were looking to cash in on Jamel someday. But ultimately Lenore was allowed to help. Thomas would stay with her during the week and return to his own home in Coney Island on the weekends. The Bravermans would help Jamel focus and ultimately win a scholarship to Providence College.
His time at Providence was a great success. During his sophomore season, along with Austin Croshere and God Shammgod, the Friars knocked off Duke and then it was Jamel’s gutsy 3 pointer from the corner that tied he game against Arizona in the Elite 8. In case you forgot that:
Thomas finished his Providence career with 1,971 career points and made the First Team All-Big East selection as a senior. So certainly when it was draft time in 1999, I expected Jamel to be selected. But sometimes it doesn’t happen that way (think Scotty Thurman). Jamel wasn’t picked but latched onto Cleveland in October of that year. However before playing any regular season games, he was released. 2 months later and the Evil Emperor came calling in December of 1999. The Celtics would ink Jamel to a 10 day contract on December 13th. During that stretch he appeared in 3 games and average 6 minutes per game. Despite that his per-36 numbers were strong, 20 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists. His Celtics career came to an end.
I asked Jamel on Twitter what his favorite moment with the Celtics was:
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