"You definitely get a sense that you're more relaxed because you've been through that at some of the highest levels," said Thomas, who was recruited to play at Hampton after his Baltimore Stars travel team won the Amateur Athletic Union's state championship. "Coming from that to here was just a little transition."

His experience playing for the Terps this season might help him after he graduates. Thomas, whose mother Jeanice is a chemist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, hopes someday to work with engines, "making things run better, cleaner and faster."

He has talked with his father about helping design better engines for the team plane that the Terps fly because it gets bounced around in turbulence.

Turgeon said Thomas and the other walk-ons have helped make the Terps a more efficient team this season.

"He makes our practices better. He's a good player," Turgeon said. "He's a tough guard; he's a smart kid. All those guys, they really relish their role. We look better; our preparation is better. JT has been great. He's a solid, solid kid. He puts academics first, and I'm really glad he's part of the team."

During most games, Thomas is animated on the bench, often mimicking Turgeon's emotions and body language.

"Every day you learn so much," Thomas said. "It's really up to you to try to understand everything he's throwing at you. It's hard, but sometimes it's something you've got to think about, even when you're out of practice and thinking, 'What is he is trying to do here?' Every day has been a great experience."


Thomas' course load

Vibration, Controls, and Optimization I

Electronics II

Material Science

Computer Assisted Drawing

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