The label on his warmup shirt reads Creator . But for Ron Thomas, a senior forward at Brea-Olinda High School, basketball season started as anything but a heavenly experience--for him or his teammates.
"Ron was never the easiest personality to get along with," said Rick Jones, Brea-Olinda coach. "(In the early season) he would get mad and show a lot of disgust. He'd stomp and yell in a game. But now, he's much more mature as a player and as a human being."
Thomas gained his reputation during the first weeks of conditioning. He often shot--and missed--from long range when a short pass to an open teammate might have easily scored points. Many times, if he wasn't shooting, he was holding the ball.
Sometimes Thomas yelled at teammates, or snarled at referees. Mostly, he yelled at himself.
In his first game, against Diamond Bar, Thomas--sick with a viral infection and frustrated by his performance--slapped the floor after missing a shot. The referee gave him a technical, and Thomas was benched for the remainder of the game.
"Ron would just get so down on himself at the beginning of the season," said Michael Thorum, a Brea forward. "He got frustrated. But he's pretty much cooled down from that now."
Said Thomas: "I had a hard time figuring out what my role was on the team. I learned that I have to share the ball (but) that I'm a leader too. Before, when I made a mistake, I'd just stop (trying) for a second. I don't do that anymore. I always try as hard as I can."
In the past few months, Thomas, The Times' Player of the Week, has become more relaxed. It's an attitude that has helped him lead Brea--which is in first place in the Orange League--in scoring and spirit.
"We had some two- to three-hour talks that have helped, I think," Jones said. "The key thing is that he does the things I ask now. (Though) sometimes he questions things, but it's very short-lived."
Thomas led the Wildcats to two victories last week. He scored 18 points against Western Wednesday and had 32 points, 11 rebounds and 5 steals against Valencia Friday.
This season, Thomas is averaging 17.5 points and 5.8 rebounds a game. He is shooting 54% from the field and 69% from the free-throw line.
"He's a positive force on the court now," Jones said. "He had to really dig down deep inside as to where he would work on this team. He's matured and learned to control his emotions. He's a very, very big part of our team now."
Said Bob Terry, Brea center: "We still call him the Creator. Before it was because he acted like he was God. Now we say it because of the way he plays."