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Herd signs embattled former 5-star recruit

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Marshall has signed basketball guard Chris Thomas, a 6-foot-4 former five-star, highly regarded recruit who ran into legal problems and was apparently released from a letter-of-intent to Manhattan College.

MU coach Tom Herrion confirmed the signing of Thomas and said the player would be enrolled in school for the fall and be eligible for three seasons.

Thomas had been attending Chipola College in Marianna, Fla., where he averaged 9.9 points but, according to the Jackson County Floridian, sat out some of last season's junior college state tournament in jail.

According to the newspaper, Thomas was "granted no bond in his first court appearance . . . after testing positive for marijuana in a standard drug test given as a matter of course to defendants who are on conditional release in a pre-trial intervention program."

The paper went on to say "Thomas had been granted the conditional release and pre-trial intervention late last year after being charged with driving without a valid driver's license and with operating an unregistered vehicle."

In June, Manhattan coach Steve Masiello told NYBuckets.com, "We have to make some decisions as a program. Is that something we want to move forward with, and that type of thing?"

Thomas is originally from Denver, where he attended Montbello High as a freshman. Greg Willis, a mentor to Thomas, told the Denver Post the year was a "disaster" for the player and urged him to move.

Thomas then went to Princeton (Md.) Day Academy, where he helped lead his team to a 31-6 record.

He transferred from there to Westwind (Ariz.) Prep, but arrived too late to play and wound up at South Kent (Conn.).

In January of 2012, Thomas, then 19, left South Kent and enrolled at Chipola, where he spent a summer getting his GED before playing and taking classes last season. In addition to averaging 9.9 points on 47 percent shooting in 26 games there, Thomas converted but 18.4 percent of his 3-point tries and 51.5 percent of his free throws. Thomas averaged 5.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists.

Through it all, the basketball talent of Thomas has been applauded. At various times, he was ranked the nation's No. 1 shooting guard by Rivals.com and No. 3 overall by ESPN for the class of 2013.

Thomas has been said to be "in the mold of Derrick Rose or John Wall," a "sophomore phenom," a "prodigy" and "unstoppable in transition" through his travels.

He reportedly had offers from Arizona, Kentucky, Louisville and once committed to Xavier.

The issues, however, have dogged Thomas. In addition to the legal and academic issues, Kellon Hassenstab of College Basketball Talk wrote the player "may have led last summer's [AAU] circuit in technical fouls and verbal outbursts during games, if such statistics were ever kept."

After Herrion confirmed the signing, he declined to comment on Thomas' past.

Seven players exited Herrion's program since the end of last season, only three of them graduating seniors.

Six newcomers are eligible and expected to make their college debuts in 2013-14. Only five players, one a regular starter, return.

Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, mitchvingle@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.

 


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