Tag: Chris Thomas


SWAC Preview: Can Texas Southern return to the dance?


Beginning in October and running up through November 13th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2015-2016 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Last season, Texas Southern reached the NCAA tournament for the second-straight season under head coach Mike Davis. The Tigers will be in position to three-peat, but Southern, which last reached the tournament in 2013, and Alabama State look to end the trend.

Texas Southern will begin a quest for a third straight conference title without 2014 SWAC Player of the Year Madarious Gibbs. But the Tigers return two all-SWAC caliber seniors in Chris Thomas and Malcolm Riley. Both finished the season strong, with Thomas averaging 14.8 points in postseason play and Riley posting 18 points and 10 boards in a 62-58 win over Southern in the SWAC Tournament championship game. David Blanks and Tonnie Collier are two key holdovers for the Tigers, but don’t forget about Jose Rodriguez, the 6-foot-7 forward who missed last season due to injury. He averaged 11.4 points and 5.7 rebounds in 2013-14.

Southern brings back one of conference’s best perimeters with Adrian Rodgers, the team’s leading scorer, and junior Trelun Banks and Christopher Hyder, who averaged 3.9 assists per game. The other returning starter for the Jaguars is 6-foot-9 sophomore Jarred Sam. Sam will have to hold down the inside for the Jaguars as the only returning big man who played significant minutes. Southern had one of the better defensive teams in the SWAC last season, and that could remain the same this year. But Southern will have to put an emphasis on rebounding with a thin frontline.

Wedged in the middle of Southern and Texas Southern the past two seasons has been Alabama State. In both campaigns, the Hornets have failed to make it past the SWAC semifinals. Jamel Waters is set to change that in 2015-16. Alabama State graduated two double-digit scorers, but look for Bobby Brown and Steve Rogers, two players capable of knocking down threes, should see benefit from playing alongside Waters.

Jackson State and Alabama A&M should round out the top-5 in the conference. Alabama A&M returns all five starters Ladarius Tabb, the first team snub from a season ago, and Nick West, the SWAC’s top rebounder. Jackson State also has its starting five back, including Raeford Worsham, who was limited last year after transferring in. Arkansas Pine Bluff, no longer facing an APR ban, can’t be overlooked either with three returning starters.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule


  • Favorite: “I’d say Southern because they turn five of their top six guys. And they finished third in the league.”
  • Sleeper: “I think the team that’s the sleeper is Jackson State with eight of their top guys back.”
  • Star to watch: “It would probably be Adrian Rodgers from Southern or Chris Thomas from Texas Southern. They are natural perimeter guys. They can both put the ball on the floor. They both can get a basket.”


A season after being named SWAC Newcomer of the Year, the 6-foot-5 guard should be the favorite for SWAC Player of the Year honors. Tabb led the conference in scoring and was second in rebounding (behind teammate Nick West), averaging 20 points in 19 games against SWAC opponents and recording 11 double-doubles during the course of the 2014-15 season.


  • Adrian Rodgers, Southern: The 6-foot-4 senior averaged 13.1 points and 4.2 boards per game; one of four starters back for the Tigers.
  • Jamel Waters, Alabama State: With the loss of three starters, expect the 5-foot-9 guard to see a bump in scoring. Led the team last year at 14.0 points per game, dished out 5.2 assists, second-best in the league.
  • Nick West, Alabama A&M: The 6-foot-10 big man recorded seven double-doubles as a junior, finishing first in the league in rebounding at 7.9 boards per game.
  • Raeford Worsham, Jackson State: The Arkansas State transfer scored in double figures in 15 out of 20 games he appeared in, recording four double-doubles in conference play.



1. Southern
2. Texas Southern
3. Alabama State
4. Jackson State
5. Alabama A&M
6. Arkansas Pine Bluff
7. Alcorn State
8. Prairie View A&M
9. Mississippi Valley State
10. Grambling State

Chris Thomas, Malcolm Riley lead Texas Southern past No. 25 Michigan State

Mike Davis
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Even with senior forward Branden Dawson out of the lineup with a non-displaced fracture of his left wrist, No. 25 Michigan State appeared to be a safe bet to take care of business in their final two non-conference games before they start Big Ten play December 30. Guards Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine were still available, as was Bryn Forbes, and the addition of freshman Javon Bess is a nice boost for the Spartans as well.

So a 1-8 Texas Southern team didn’t appear to pose much of a threat…on paper. In action Chris Thomas and Malcolm Riley proved tough to corral, and Jason Carter played well in his second game of the season as Mike Davis’ Tigers won 71-64 in overtime.

Thomas scored a game-high 22 points, Riley (20, seven rebounds) and Carter (13) combined to score 33 of Texas Southern’s 38 bench points on the night and Madarious Gibbs added nine points, nine rebounds and four assists to lead the way for the victors. Texas Southern shot 53.2% from the field, the second-best percentage a Michigan State opponent has shot from the field this season (No. 2 Duke shot 54 percent). Thomas made good use of ball screens for Texas Southern, and the Tigers’ offensive execution helped them make up for Michigan State rebounding nearly 44 percent of its missed shots.

As for Michigan State, doing a good job on the offensive glass doesn’t mean much when you struggle to convert those extra opportunities. Tom Izzo’s Spartans shot 39.3% from the field, with Forbes (six points) and Trice (six points) combining to shoot 4-for-22 from the field, and they were also 4-for-21 from beyond the arc. With Texas Southern as productive as it was offensively Michigan State couldn’t afford that kind of night from the field, especially with Dawson sidelined.

To be fair to Texas Southern their 1-8 record has come as a result of one of the tougher schedules in college basketball. For programs such as theirs non-conference play is seen as an opportunity to add some money to their athletic department’s coffers, with guarantee games being the norm. Prior to Saturday the Tigers had already played games against Indiana, SMU, Baylor, Florida and No. 8 Gonzaga with eight of their nine games being played on the road.

With that being the case Texas Southern wasn’t going to be intimidated, especially with the Spartans playing without Dawson. Michigan State, which entered the game as the nation’s best three-point shooting team, couldn’t find a groove from the perimeter and that combined with Texas Southern’s play on the other end of the floor cost the Spartans dearly.

Mike Davis re-loads Texas Southern with a Big Ten transfer and former five-star prospect

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Mike Davis has done a nice job competing in the SWAC at Texas Southern by taking on transfers that many other coaches wouldn’t think twice about.

The former Indiana coach might not be able to recruit high-level athletes and talented players out of high school to the low-major program, but he’s made a big mark taking risks on certain players.

After having recent success with SWAC Player of the Year Aaric Murray, a former La Salle and West Virginia transfer, Davis told Scott Gleeson of the USA Today that he’s added a few more risky transfers with checkered pasts for the 2014-15 season.

Davis has added former Nebraska guard Deverell Biggs and former Marshall guard and five-star prospect Chris Thomas to Texas Southern this season.

The 6-foot Biggs was the third leading scorer for Nebraska last season at 9.9 points per game before he was dismissed from the team after only 15 games for multiple offenses. Biggs missed multiple film sessions that led to benchings and also had some run-ins with the law thanks to a few driving issues.

Thomas, a 6-foot-5 native of Colorado and former highly-touted five-star prospect, will also get another chance at Texas Southern as well. At Marshall, Thomas averaged 12.7 points and 4 rebounds per game as a sophomore before being dismissed from the program in June for violating team rules.

Both Biggs and Thomas have had multiple issues but Davis has been a steady presence for players looking for a final opportunity to play college basketball. Thomas, in particular, is the interesting case to watch here. The talented wing can really get rolling as a scorer, but he’s had multiple issues at a lot of programs.

Thomas went through a handful of prep schools, ended up at Chipola Junior College and later decommited from Xavier. While Chipola was in the postseason in 2013, Thomas missed the run while he spent time in jail. Thomas then signed with Manhattan but the team pulled his scholarship before he played a game due to a positive test for marijuana.

If Davis gets these two guys to buy in with the rest of the team, he’ll have two of the most talented players in the SWAC at his disposal and Texas Southern could be the favorite in the league.