Iloff leads the Lady Tornadoes with 14.8 points per game. She’s tops in minutes, steals, assists and free throws. Thomas, TC’s biggest presence in the post, has blocked 25 shots in 10 games and averages eight rebounds per game.
“Having new players is an adjustment on both ends,” said Talladega head coach Romeo Lagmay. “The player/coach relationship has to develop on the court. They have to understand my philosophy and expectations. We have to meet on common ground on how we’re going to be successful against our opponents.”
Iloff, a Los Angeles native, is returning to college basketball after taking two years off. A torn meniscus during the 2009-10 season forced her to end her season at Cal State Los Angeles short.
“In California she was one of the top players in the state,” Lagmay said. “One year she was the leading scorer out of approximately 130 junior colleges in the state and the other year she was top 5. Basketball is in her blood. She knows how to score.”
Iloff said she wanted to come to a winning program, and found one in Talladega College.
“I’m very happy,” Iloff said. “I never thought I could leave California and come to a small town but it’s actually working out really great. It’s way different from what I was used to at my (junior college). I feel my age sometimes, but then I remember how much I love the game. I’ve always had this endless amount of energy for basketball.”
Lagmay said Thomas was underrated at East Central Community College in Decatur, Miss. She didn’t get a lot of minutes and had below-average statistics.
“From what my understanding is there were coaches that didn’t know how to use her well,” Lagmay said. “I wanted to see what strengths she had maximize them and try to improve her back-to-the-basket game. We’ve taken her one-on-one and she’s improved a lot.”
Thomas shed 30 pounds in the summer in preparation for a new start. She currently leads the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference in blocked shots and is in the top five in Division I of the National Athletic Intercollegiate Association.
“(East Central) didn’t really use me,” Thomas said. “The coach was mostly about guards. I felt kind of left out and it was hard for me when I got here, but as time went on I got a better understanding of basketball. I feel more confident. At first I had low self-esteem, but now I feel more confident in myself. My teammates and coaches work with me and help me out with the things I don’t understand.”
November was an outstanding month for Iloff and Thomas, as both players received GCAC Player of the Week honors. Iloff won the award twice on Nov. 7 and Nov. 14, while Thomas was given the honor Nov. 21.
Iloff said it felt good to be recognized in a new state, while Thomas said she was surprised, but grateful.
Lagmay insists he isn’t surprised in the way his new recruits have blossomed as stars for TC.
“I didn’t recruit them just to sit there — they have to perform, and they get that message very clearly,” he said. “(Iloff’s) individuals successes are there — she’s proven she’s a scorer. Now she just has to simulate herself in a team process. I want to see her prove some other things. (Thomas) really came off the bench at East Central, but here she has no choice but to be good and get better because the demands are higher and she’s surrounded by really good athletes. The future is bright for us, because these players are only going to get better.”
Iloff, Thomas and the rest of the Lady Tornadoes will look to improve their 6-4 record at 5:30 p.m. tonight when they host Selma.
Contact Wesley Sinor at email@example.com.