University of Miami

Jessica Thomas could have played pro golf. Instead, she followed her brother to UM.

The 14th-ranked University of Miami women’s basketball team plays undefeated No. 15 Virginia Tech at home on Wednesday, and senior guard Jessica Thomas (3) is pumped.
The 14th-ranked University of Miami women’s basketball team plays undefeated No. 15 Virginia Tech at home on Wednesday, and senior guard Jessica Thomas (3) is pumped. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

Jessica Thomas doesn’t pick up her golf clubs too often these days.

As a senior guard on the 14th-ranked University of Miami women’s basketball team, she has very little free time. The Hurricanes are in the midst of a brutal stretch, during which six of seven opponents are ranked.

They did not have a chance to dwell on their Sunday loss to seventh-ranked Notre Dame because they have undefeated No. 15 Virginia Tech coming up at home on Wednesday night. The Hokies (15-0) are one of three undefeated teams in the nation, along with top-ranked UConn and fourth-ranked Mississippi State. UM (13-3) has beaten Virginia Tech the last 10 times they played.

Thomas said her many years of experience on the golf course helps her maintain her focus and excel during these high-pressure games.

The younger sister of former UM football star Lamar Thomas, Jessica was a two-sport star at Gainesville Buchholz High, placing fourth in the Class 7A state golf tournament as a senior. Like her three brothers, she started playing golf as a toddler, with plastic Fisher Price clubs. Every Sunday, Tara and Larone Thomas and their kids went to Ironwood Golf Course and played a round.

By the time Jessica (JT) was 15, she was a 7-handicap and beating her older brothers.

“Golf has helped my mindset on the basketball court,” she said. “It’s always next shot, next shot. If I shank it into the woods, I have to have a plan for the next shot. With basketball, it’s the same. I learned to look ahead. Also, golf taught me how to endure pressure. There’s a lot of pressure when it comes down to that last putt, a playoff hole, just like a big shot on the basketball court.”

Thomas considered becoming a professional golfer out of high school, but opted instead for the chance to play basketball at her brother’s alma mater, for fiery coach Katie Meier.

“It worked out perfect,” she said. “I got to play for Coach Meier, and continue my brother’s legacy. That was like the cherry on top.”

Thomas, a co-captain with Adrienne Motley, led the Canes with 15 points against Notre Dame, and has been steady at the point all season. She said the Hurricanes are hungry to get a signature win over the Hokies after home losses to Florida State and Notre Dame.

“We’re still trying to put pieces together, not a finished product yet, but when we are, I feel we’ll be able to beat anyone,” Thomas said.

We’re still hungry because we haven’t gotten a big upset, statement win. We’re still looking for that.”

Wednesday No. 14 UM women vs. No. 15 Virginia Tech

When/where: 7 p.m.; Watsco Center.

Records: UM (13-3, 2-2 ACC); Virginia Tech (15-0, 2-0).

Radio: WVUM-90.5 FM

Scouting report: Virginia Tech is one of three undefeated teams in the nation, along with top-ranked UConn and No. 4 Mississippi State. The Hurricanes have beaten the Hokies 10 times in a row, including a 67-56 overtime victory last February. UM’s three losses this season have all been to top-20 teams, and the Canes are coming off a 67-55 loss to No. 7 Notre Dame. Virginia Tech is led by Chantelle Hicks (16.3 points per game, 5.5 assists per game, 4.7 steals per game).

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