After qualifying for state in the long jump as a sophomore, Isaiah Thomas primed himself for a bigger splash last spring.
"I was talking to a lot of coaches and they say the year colleges really look at in recruiting is the junior year," Thomas said.
Unfortunately, Thomas' season ended just as it started. He pulled his hamstring in an indoor meet at Purdue and a few weeks later, tore it as he was practicing the long jump before Morgan Township's first outdoor meet.
"It was pretty tough," said Thomas, who now attends South Central. "I was working with a personal trainer at VU. I was really looking forward to the season."
The next few months seemed like an eternity. It was late August before Thomas was medically cleared to run again. He played football, but it was another several weeks before he started to cut it loose. While the hamstring is healed, Thomas still has some mental hurdles to clear, even over a year later.
"We went to the Purdue meet and I didn't do the 55 (dash), I was so leery about the leg," he said. "At Hanover, I used blocks, but I switched up my push-off leg. A lot of it's just trying to push myself in practice. Once I start to get to the point where I'm pretty confident in my leg, I'll do fine. I'm going to wait for a meet that really matters before I go all out."
Even going an estimated 85 percent, Thomas stands out.
"I give him a hard time when he's running the 100," S.C. coach Cari Schmack said. "I tell him to go all out. He's in front of everyone and he literally looks he's jogging, he's so relaxed. He's extremely talented."
It's not the first time Thomas has heard that.
"My dad's telling me, 'You look like Usain Bolt,'" he said. "It doesn't look like I'm going hard. I try to keep my body and facial expressions as relaxed as possible when I run."
Thomas broke Morgan's 100 record with a 10.8. Put into the long jump on a whim, he literally soared, besting the school mark with a leap of 22 feet, 1 inch. It took him just a few outdoor jumps at South Central to set its record (21-9). Thomas reached 22-8 3/4 indoors at the Hoosier State Relays, placing third in the small-school division.
"I did it at Morgan just working on sprinting," he said. "Now I've really flipped it all the way around. All my focus is on the long jump. It takes a lot off my leg. There's no big explosion."
Thomas is targeting 23 feet and a return to Bloomington, this time in a Satellites uniform.
"I wanted to go here since my freshman year, but my sister was at Morgan and our parents didn't want us at different schools," he said. "Their first three children went here. My sister graduated, so they said I could come here. I knew quite a few people, but I didn't have any really close friends. I was surprised how well I was accepted."
Schmack heard of Thomas' transfer, but wasn't counting on it until she saw him. Though he's new to S.C., he is already a team captain.
"He's good kid," Schmack said. "He's probably his hardest critic. I feel like there should be quite a few colleges looking at him. I talked to the VU coach and they say they'd take him in a heartbeat. He could compete there now."
Thomas is keeping his options open, but for now he plans to attend Vincennes, where his sister Latoya goes to school, and study law enforcement.
"(The injury) really humbled me," Thomas said. "I had to take a step back. It taught me that if you really want to get somewhere in life, no matter what you're in, you have to work to get there. You can't just try to get by with your skills. Nothing's handed to you. You have to put effort into everything you do."