Thomas making a difference in sophomore year

A name change and a new approach to basketball have Charles Thomas at the top of his game

Though his minutes are still relatively limited, Charles Thomas IV has made a big leap in his second year in Madison.

Image By: Leah Voskuil

Growing up in suburban Maryland, sophomore forward Charles Thomas IV went by many different names. He was called everything from Chuck and Charlie to Lil C, and those are just the highlights of the titles that Thomas said ranged from “head to toe.”

During his first season at Madison, Thomas settled on Charlie as his primary name. But as he turned the page to his sophomore year, he noted to members of the athletic department that he wanted to go by Charles on official team documents.

The switch is a result of the sophomore forward wanting people to understand his familial legacy. The fourth Charles Thomas wants to carry out the tradition that three generations of Charles Thomases started.

At the same time, though, Thomas is hoping to strengthen his ongoing legacy at UW. And while a simple name change hasn’t been the catalyst for his increased impact this season, Thomas’ moniker adjust, much like his play, has helped him build on his legacy.

Statistically, Thomas’ stats this season haven’t changed much. His scoring and rebounding numbers are slightly improved, and his minutes have only marginally increased. But he is more impactful when he steps on the court this season—something he says is a result of better understanding his role as a reserve.

“Go bring energy and dominate,” Thomas said. “I just want to come in and bring what we’re not doing and just be an energy guy.”

Energy, of course, is tough to quantify, but the fact that Thomas is currently second on the team in defensive rebounding percentage is a testament to his increased activity on the floor.

“Charlie, to me, is the main one that is getting a lot more comfortable in being big and just keeping it simple,” assistant coach Howard Moore said. “Try to get as many rebounds as you can and just throw that body around. That can really help us and give us an impact off the bench.”

According to sophomore guard Khalil Iverson, that relentless effort is part of what makes Thomas and other Badgers such good rebounders. Thomas’ aggressiveness sometimes leads him to mistime a jump, miss an easy shot or pick up a foul while trying to block a shot, but his jolt of energy helps elevate the Badgers whenever he is on the floor.

“I think he’s doing a great job in practice and in the minutes he’s getting in the games,” Iverson said. “Going in, he’s a big body, as everyone can see, and he can go in and he’s definitely a threat in the post.”

Thomas is still a ways away from being Wisconsin’s next Frank Kaminsky in the post, as the Badger sophomore is averaging just three points per game this season, but he recognizes the need to improve his offensive game. This past summer, he spent a large chunk of the off-season working on his inside game. Thomas spent time working on his jump hooks, for instance, and worked to develop a few go-to post moves that he could utilize in games.

He has started to see some of the early returns on his summer workouts of late, as he has scored more than six points in three of Wisconsin’s first eight games and looked more confident around the basket as a whole.

“Last year I was thrown into the fire. You don’t really know what to expect freshman year. Sophomore year you know what to expect,” Thomas said. “I feel a lot more comfortable than I did last year. Getting more reps in definitely helps with that. And I think I see that hard work paying off.”

Thomas’ hard work is part of why Gard trusts the sophomore forward to be one of UW’s first bench players to see the floor.

In the Badgers’ 77-60 victory over No. 22 Syracuse Tuesday night, Thomas and freshman guard D’Mitrik Trice both entered at the first media timeout just under five minutes into the game.

When the Badgers stomped Chicago State 69-51 in mid-November, Thomas entered early in the game to provide his bruising presence as well. He did just that against the Cougars, finishing with seven points and seven rebounds in just 15 minutes.

“They’re huge,” Chicago State head coach Tracy Dildy said after the game. “There’s a lot more than just eating cheese in this area. There’s some weight lifting going down in this area too.”

But Thomas’ impact is more than just the result of a bruising 6-foot-8 frame—his improvement derives more from lifting a few extra dumbbells.

Thomas worked hard during the summer to improve his offensive game and frequently puts up extra shots after practice as he begins to create a more well-rounded repertoire.

Those parts of his game will only continue to improve with time. For right now, as Moore alluded to, Thomas is keeping it simple, using his muscular frame to frustrate opponents.

In an ironic twist, the man that was once called Lil C is now creating his own legacy in Madison as a big, bruising Charles.

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