April 8, 2010 9:21:00 AM
Adam Minichino - firstname.lastname@example.org
Bianca Thomas believes in herself.
You can hear it in her voice.
More importantly, the University of Mississippi senior makes you believe on the court.
The Southeastern Conference''s leading scorer this season (20.9 points per game) wasn''t one of 14 players invited to Secaucus, N.J., at 2 p.m. today for the WNBA draft, but that hasn''t dampened her spirits.
Instead, the 5-10 guard is even more focused to make the most of opportunity she hopes will come today.
"It is going to be very, very exciting," Thomas said. "I am just taking everything in and hoping for the best, and hoping I hear my name on draft day. I believe I will. I am very, very excited to have an opportunity to play pro ball."
According to a mock draft done by DraftSite.com, the Minnesota Lynx will draft Thomas with the No. 26 overall pick. In all, the 12 WNBA teams will select 36 players in three rounds.
Thomas hired an agent Monday, so she is ready to take the next step in her basketball career. She showed this season she is more than capable of leading a team. Not only did she lead the SEC in scoring, she also finished 11th nationally. She became the third player in school history to average more than 20 ppg. for a season. She is the first Rebel since Jennifer Gillom in 1986 to lead the conference in scoring.
Thomas, a first-team All-SEC pick by the league coaches and the AP, finished her career sixth all-time at Ole Miss in scoring with 1,511 points.
She scored 20 or more points 19 times this season, including a career-high and Tad Smith Coliseum record 42 points against LSU.
Thomas also was second in the SEC and ninth in the nation with 3.1 3-pointers per game. She set the Ole Miss single-season record with 100, becoming the seventh player in SEC history with 100 or more 3-pointers in the same season. She was second all-time at Ole Miss with 226 career 3-pointers.
Thomas knows the folding of the Sacramento Monarchs and the recent reduction in roster sizes of WNBA teams (from 13 to 11) could hurt the chances she and other draftees and free agents have of making a team.
If Thomas doesn''t get drafted, she said she would examine the possibilities of playing professional basketball overseas.
Ole Miss coach Renee Ladner doesn''t feel it will come to that. She is confident Thomas has what it takes to stick with a WNBA team.
"Bianca Thomas is a very good player, and Bianca Thomas has the ability to play in the WNBA because she can do something not a lot of players can do, which is score," Ladner said. "She has tremendous range. This year, I thought better than any other year she showed an ability to create her shot. If you saw her last year she was more of an outside threat, and people took note of her dropping long threes. But you can attribute (Bianca''s development as an all-around offensive layer) to her work ethic. She became a multi-dimentional player instead of a one-dimensional player.
"Am I biased? Yes, but she is an outstanding young person as well as an incredible athlete. She is the total package."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.