While Hermiston was a welcomed addition to the Mid-Columbia Conference this season, the girls basketball coaches were a little unsure of the challenges that would come with the Bulldogs and their 6-foot-4 senior center Jordan Thomas.
“She was very difficult for us,” said Kamiakin coach Lane Schumacher, whose team won the MCC title. “Not only does she have the height to make things difficult for us with her defense, but she also has a good touch on the offensive end. We tried to pressure the guards so they couldn’t get her the ball.”
Thomas was a cut above the competition this season, earning her the East Oregonian Player of the Year honor.
“It’s a well-deserved honor for her,” Schumacher said. “She is going to keep developing. Her best basketball is still ahead of her.”
Thomas is joined on the first team by teammate Jazlyn Romero, Pendleton freshman Muriel Hoisington, Sydney Wilson and Jacee Currin from Heppner’s 2A state championship team, and Ana Zacarias of Irrigon.
Heppner’s Robert Wilson is the Coach of the Year.
Thomas averaged 15.5 points, 13.2 rebounds, 3.8 blocked shots and 1.2 steals a game for the Bulldogs, who advanced to the 3A regional tournament.
She also was named to the MCC’s first team, and to the defensive team.
“It makes my job easy in terms of scoring options,” Hermiston coach Juan Rodriguez said. “I think a lot of coaches would like to have a player like that, who can get a basket at any time. She’s definitely a dominant player, especially in this league. For the coaches to single her out and put her on the first team says a lot.”
For Thomas, the switch to the MCC helped her game, and helped in preparation for taking her game to the college level.
“I found it more challenging,” Thomas said. “I took that in a positive way. It was fun to play against those girls, they are so skilled. There was new competition, and I learned a lot. It was good to see new things.”
After three years of playing the same teams, Thomas said the hardest part of the move was scouting reports.
“When you continually play Pendleton, The Dalles and Hood River, you know what to expect,” said said. “We had like a day to figure out (the MCC) teams and adjust the best we could.”
Thomas honed her skills last summer with the Oregon Elite team out of Portland, which Rodriguez appreciated.
“She is just unique,” he said. “Some teams have big girls, but they don’t always have the talent that gives people problems. People don’t realize how hard she works. She puts in the work, she moves well, she can shoot the ball and can dribble pretty well. Playing with her traveling team gets her out of her comfort zone.”
What the future holds
Thomas signed a letter of intent to play basketball at Eastern Arizona College.
“I’m really excited,” she said. “The campus was so beautiful and I like the atmosphere.”
She also got to take in a game while she was in Thatcher, Arizona.
“They were down by 25 at halftime and won by one,” Thomas said. “That takes dedication and coaching. It gave me a good feeling.”
The Monsters are looking forward to adding Thomas and her 6-4 frame to their lineup.
“A 6-4 girl is a like a 7-foot guy,” EAC coach Cameron Turner said. “I will take her.”
Turner said he first saw Thomas play last spring with her Oregon Elite team.
“I like Jordan because of her size and potential,” said Turner, who noted that Thomas will be on full scholarship. “I never thought I had a chance to get her. I texted her in December and she came for a visit in February. I have big expectations for Jordan.”
With Makenzie Bond signing to play for Cal State Bakersfield, Turner said Thomas will be called upon to make an impact this coming season.
“She will battle people her own size for the first time in her life,” Turner said. “She will be tested. I’m super excited.”
Thomas said she looks forward to the challenge.
“Playing against taller people will be good for me,” she said. “I’ve never played with anyone taller than me, or my height.”
Rodriguez has no doubt Thomas will continue to improve and have success at the college level.
“She is shy in new situations,” he said. “But once she gets comfortable, she will be OK.”
When that happens, it will be the other teams looking for some form of comfort.