NEW YORK – Shaquille Thomas is headed to the Big East.
The 6-foot-7, 185-pound small forward from Newark (N.J.) NIA Prep made his college announcement Friday on SNY.tv.
“I will be going to the University of Cincinnati,” said Thomas, a Montclair, N.J., native who is ranked among the Top 25 small forwards in the Class of 2011.
He picked the Bearcats over Seton Hall and UTEP.
“”The biggest reason I picked Cincinnati is because of the coaching staff. I built a good relationship with the coaches in early July when they started recruiting me. When I went on my visit, I just liked the whole environment.”
Thomas plans to finish up academically at NIA Prep in January, but probably won’t go to college until next summer.
Cincinnati has recently built a pipeline to the New York-metropolitan area. Senior Rashad Bishop is from Paterson, N.J., where Thomas competed at Paterson Catholic, and redshirt freshman Sean Kilpatrick is from White Plains, N.Y.
“I built a good relationship with Sean and Rashad on my visit,” Thomas said. “And I knew Rashad from when I played AAU with the Playaz.”
Thomas believes he can help make head coach Mick Cronin’s team stronger as soon as he arrives.
“Just my athleticism,” he said. “I can play more than one position on the court and I’m going to work hard.”
“The sky’s the limit for Shaquille,” said his AAU coach, Paul Ruddock. “It all depends on how hard he really wants to work. College is a whole other level because now it’s technically a job. He’s just got to go there focused and ready to bring it every day.”
He added: “He brings tremendous athleticism. Put some pounds on him and he’s an NBA prototype two/three guy.”
The nephew of Dallas Mavericks forward Tim Thomas and the half-brother of New York Liberty star Essence Carson, Thomas has strong basketball bloodlines that have helped form him as a person and a player.
“It’s good pressure because they’re in the NBA and they give me a lot of good advice with my college decision,” Thomas said. “They’ve been through all this recruitment stuff so they give me what to watch out for and stuff like that.”
Asked if he dreams of following them into the pros, Thomas said without hesitation, “Yes.”
Mount Vernon senior point guard Jabarie Hinds has these home visits set: UConn Saturday, UCLA Tuesday & West Virginia Wednesday…Villanova freshman guard James Bell had surgery Wednesday for stress fractures in the tibia of both legs. He is out for an undetermined length of time…Russell Wooten, who spent the past two years as a walk-on at Villanova before graduating in May, has been added to the 2010-11 roster.
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