Making the switch from high school senior to a college freshman is often a rough transition for many to handle.
Add the adjustment of changing cultures and playing basketball for a Division I basketball program, and the transition becomes rather difficult.
Senior guard David Thomas, a Brampton, Ontario native, was amazed at the level of emphasis placed on high school athletics in the United States as opposed to Canada.
Our games in Canada were played with maybe 100 people in the stands if we were lucky, he said. In the states, a high school basketball game can fill an arena the size of the Breslin Center.
Another difference between the styles in Canada and the United States was the seriousness and aggression of the players, Thomas said.
The play here is much more physical and up-tempo, he said. The players attack the game with a much higher level of intensity.
Coming into MSU as a freshman, he was compared to former Spartan great and current Portland Trail Blazer, Steve Smith. Being compared to Smith was more of an accolade than any added pressure he felt.
Having your name mentioned in the same breath as such a successful player like Steve Smith is an honor, he said. The idea that someone could see even a little of Smith in my game was a really humbling notion.
His career was temporarily derailed in the middle of his then-successful sophomore campaign because of a sprained knee. At the time, he felt he was playing the best basketball of his career at MSU and is looking to recapture that success this season.
Coming into this season, he has posted a career average of 2.4 points per game and 2.7 rebounds per game. Through the first five games of this season he has raised the numbers to 4.8 points and rebounds per game. His numbers this season are similar to his sophomore season, where he posted career highs in both categories.
I feel that I have started to play with the aggression and positive mentality that was present during my sophomore year, he said. I was having a very successful season crashing the boards and scoring before the injury and I feel that I have returned to that style of play this year.
Senior guard Charlie Bell has watched Thomas progress during his own career at MSU and has seen marked improvement in many areas of Thomas game.
His jump shot and ball-handling ability have really improved during his career, Bell said. I feel the most important aspect that Davids game brings us is versatility and the ability to step in where he is needed.
Thomas pointed out his increased level of confidence as an important factor in regaining previous success and fulfilling the potential he showed as a freshman.
I have played much more aggressive this year and have been trying to add a spark to the team when they have needed it this year, he said. My mental game has improved tremendously through my career and has helped me feel more comfortable with my jump shot.
Thomas teammates have been noticing the increased energy level brought on the floor when Thomas enters a ball game this season.
His energy level has been really important in bringing life to the team when we have needed it this year, senior forward Andre Hutson said. He also has given a strong defensive effort and crashed the boards real well so far.
All of the seasonlong work and preparation was evident in Saturdays game against the Illinois-Chicago Flames. His hustle and energy seemed to energize the team as he managed to pull down six rebounds - four on the offensive end.
To complete a successful career at MSU, he has a few goals in mind to accomplish during his senior campaign.
I would love to be able to capture a fourth-straight Big Ten championship, he said. I would also like to be able to distinguish myself as an individual this season.
After his career at MSU ends he plans to continue to try to fulfill his dream of playing professional basketball.
I definitely want to continue to play basketball in some professional capacity, he said. I think thats always been an ultimate goal of mine; to be able to make basketball a career.