Watch: SC hoops coaches in favor of NCAA-sanctioned recruiting event
He played varsity basketball as a freshman. He’s had a breakout summer on the AAU circuit. He’s already receiving letters from Power 5 schools.
But his name is LeBron Thomas. So before you find out more about his game, you got to ask about his name.
“Where’d it come from?” a reporter asked with a grin, giddy for an elaborate story.
“I don’t really know,” Thomas responded. “They were going to name me something else, but I guess my daddy chose LeBron.”
LeBron Thomas, a rising sophomore at Lee Central High School and one of the state’s top prospects in the 2022 class, was born March 1, 2004, aka past the midway point of LeBron James’ award-winning rookie season with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Thomas last week wore No. 22 — not 6 or 23, digits associated with the LeBron of 15 all-star games and three NBA championships — as he guided the Stallions during play in an NCAA-certified South Carolina recruiting event at Richland Northeast High School. The 15-year-old is a 6-foot-2 point guard — projected to grow to 6-5 — who finds joy in teammate involvement. He’s pass-first, but can score at any moment.
The name draws you in, but the talent keeps you there. Thomas has already received letters from South Carolina and Iowa, among other Division I programs.
“The sky’s the limit with LeBron,” said Lee Central coach Xavier Harry. “His IQ at that age, you don’t see that a lot. His IQ coming in, as a ninth grader working with us in the summer, his vision, his IQ, some of the things he did with the ball, we knew he was going to be a special player.”
Thomas averaged nearly 12 points per game as a Lee Central freshman. He was paired in the backcourt with DaVeon Thomas, a rising junior who was recently offered by Presbyterian. In late April, while participating on the AAU circuit for Florence International, Thomas averaged a near triple-double — 27.8 points, 10 rebounds, 8.5 assists — over four games at a Phenom Hoops event.
“It was a good weekend,” Thomas said. “I was mostly focused on my team. I was with my team that day. I know I can get out there myself, but I wanted my team out there exposed.”
The state of South Carolina is on a good run when it comes to producing elite prospects. Dalzell’s Ja Morant (2017 class) and Spartanburg’s Zion Williamson (2018) just went 1-2 in the NBA Draft, Charleston’s Josiah James (2019) is a reigning McDonald’s All-American headed to Tennessee and rising Dorman seniors P.J. Hall and Myles Tate are ranked among the country’s top 105 players in the 2020 class. Greenville’s John Butler are Piedmont’s Bryce McGowens — couple Gamecock targets — both have four-star ratings in the 2021 class.
PrepHoops.com has Thomas No. 5 in its 2022 state rankings.
“I tell the guys,” said Harry, a former Crestwood assistant when Morant was there, “‘Ja and Zion, they put South Carolina on the map again. So there’s going to be a lot of recruits and scouts coming to South Carolina, waiting to see what else you got to offer. So take advantage of it.’”
Thomas has been taking notes on Morant for a while. He watched as a middle schooler when Lee Central twice played Crestwood during Morant’s senior year.
“I saw him in high school,” Thomas said. “I was like, ‘That boy gonna make it.’ Next thing you know, he’s a millionaire.
“He’s a team player. He just wants to have fun. He just wants to play basketball. That’s what I like about him. He inspires me a lot. I know if he can make it, I can make it, too.”
The LeBron of Bishopville is only getting started.
“He’s a special player,” Harry said. “I’m blessed to have the opportunity to coach him.”