He touches down in Australia with some insane backboard destruction footage next to him name, with the American tough nut predicted to become a real fan favourite in the NBL.
The 206cm forward, a four-year college product out of Wake Forest, loves to rock the rim and prides himself on being one of the most competitive players on the floor.
SCROLL DOWN TO WATCH Devin Thomas’ insane backboard destruction in the player below
The 27-year-old will arrive in Melbourne this weekend and says he’ll be ready to hit the floor in the NBL.
“I am excited and, most importantly, grateful for the opportunity to play for this great organisation,” Thomas said.
“I can’t wait to meet all of my teammates, coaches, and the fans.
“Thank you for welcoming me into your country and I can’t wait to get to out to Melbourne soon.”
Watch Every Game of the 21/22 NBL Season Live & On-Demand with ESPN on Kayo.
At Wake Forest, he played under former NBA No. 1 draft pick Danny Manning, who lauded his passion.
“Devin’s emotional energy makes him the player that he is,” Manning, who starred with the LA Clippers in the late 1980s and early 1990s, said during his time at Wake.
“He displays that on his sleeve every time he steps on the court.”
That passion — and power — was clearly evident in high school when the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, native tore down the ring on an alley-oop pass that left the court covered in the shattered backboard.
Thomas went undrafted in 2016, but spent the NBA Summer League with Minnesota. He has a clear policy on his hoops career: have basketball, will travel, counting Turkey, Spain, Israel, Greece, Hungary, Argentina and Estonia among his professional stints.
The brother of former WNBA player Alyssa Thomas left a lasting memory on Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell when he watched him suit up for the Demon Deacons while on a US tour.
“I remembered Devin’s passing ability and it always stuck with me and it made me take an interest in his career,” Mitchell said.
“I see his size and athleticism at the defensive end providing us a different look on our front line, particularly in cleaning up the boards.
“Devin’s pick and roll play combined with his passing ability will further complement our team offence.”
With the Phoenix stacked with ex-NBA talent, Thomas projects as a role-playing enforcer off the bench, adding more depth to the line-up.
Phoenix chief executive Tommy Greer believes Thomas will become a fan favourite at the Fire Pit.
The Phoenix continue their NBL pre-season Blitz campaign against New Zealand at MSAC on Saturday night.
Phoenix X-Man’s worldwide quest for his ‘young kings’
Another stop in a foreign land with unfamiliar faces and few people to lean on.
Or so he thought.
There was one connection, dating all the way back to his college days — and then later to his NBA stint with the Milwaukee Bucks.
So it was perhaps a little serendipitous that, shortly after he arrived in Melbourne, a big smile greeted him at the beach, of all places.
Those pearly whites belonged to none other than Melbourne United recruit and Boomers Tokyo Olympic bronze medallist Matthew Dellavedova.
Both men have arrived in the NBL this season, and the duelling point guards were at the centre of one of the league’s biggest rivalries on Sunday afternoon when the two Melbourne teams met in the NBL pre-season Blitz — Munford’s Phoenix emerging victorious in an 89-87 thriller.
But there was no talk of hoops on that sunny day at Mordialloc beach. The former college rivals, who later became NBA teammates at the Bucks, “caught up on life”.
“I went to the beach and he saw me and I chatted with him and his son and his wife,” Munford told the Herald Sun.
“At the beach we didn’t really speak about basketball, we were just talking about life, because it had been so long with the Covid restrictions.
“He said he hadn’t seen his family in maybe two years, so I’m like ‘wow’ and I’m telling him about my kids and we just really caught up on a personal level, not talking about basketball.”
Munford, like Dellavedova, has had to scratch and claw for everything he has achieved in basketball, with multiple stops in the G-League as well as Spain, China, Turkey and now Australia.
“Every guy has a different story and a different path to where they have made it,” Munford said.
MY YOUNG ‘KINGS’
Munford’s story involves a love of basketball that goes back “as far as I can remember”, inspired by his father Darren.
Darren and his mother Zamora were high school sweethearts — “they’ve been together forever” – and he has a brother, Elijah, 21.
A father himself, the New Jersey native is working hard to attain the necessary permits to bring his two boys to Australia to spend time with him while he plies his trade in The Heartland.
“It’s kind of tough with the borders and corona and all the restrictions — hopefully it’ll come through,” he said.
“I’m just basically playing it by ear now, listening to what people are saying and what the news is saying, checking up, doing my research. I talk to people in the front office and they are updating me as well.
“They are telling me it’s been a struggle to get (new Phoenix import) Devin Thomas out here, so I imagine how it will be trying to get my kids out here.
“I’m staying optimistic about it, trying to stay positive (because there’s) not a lot I can do.”
Munford’s boys are four and one, and he has bestowed royal names on them: Khari, which is of African origin and means “son of a king” and Sire, which means “kingly” or “regal” and is of French etymology.
“They both kind of mean the same thing. They mean ‘kingly’, so that’s basically where their names come from — they’re my young kings,” he said.
“They’re definitely my ‘why’. They are the reason why I sacrifice and go all the way across the world, not being able to see them. They don’t really understand it yet, but they know it’s all in their best interest. That’s just the toughest thing about (being an) overseas player, leaving behind your family, parents, brothers, friends. You’ve got to really stay mentally strong with this, it’s not for a weak person.
“So many times when you’re lonely you feel like you’re by yourself, but you need to understand you have to come in every day and do your job.”
The “do your job” ethos gives context topro”.
And it is moments like his decision to stay home earlier this month and nurse his aching body, rather than go out for Phoenix captain Kyle Adnam’s birthday, that underlines it.
Munford had played 25 minutes and poured in 20 points to go with four assists and four rebounds in a pulsating 92-90 loss to New Zealand Breakers.
“I was supposed to go to Kyle’s birthday dinner but, after the game, I was feeling a little sore, so I just stayed home and iced, but I’m definitely looking forward to getting out with the guys and spending some time off the court,” he said.
Adnam may have had a hand in the soreness — “X” says the captain and fellow Phoenix point guard Izayah Le’Afa go their hardest at him in training.
“These guys are tough,” he said.
“Every day going to practice against Kyle and Izayah, those guys are pushing me every day, they’re high-quality guards.
“You can tell they’re motivated, determined — they have hunger in the way they play, with their physicality and they’re pretty quick as well.”
Munford’s expression rarely changes on the court; he is measured and focused and, at 190cm, taller than most NBL point guards.
He sees this as an advantage at both ends of the floor.
“I just try to make the right play, whatever’s best for the team and try to stick to playing to my strengths and not getting out of the rhythm of my game,” he said.
“If you had to label me as something, I’d be your scoring point guard; I can also play the two (shooting guard).
“I have some length, use my length on defence and I’m usually taller than other point guards, so that is to my advantage.”
He’s very capable of highlight reel plays, too, whether it be nifty passes or finishes in the lane – or something really special, like his incredible three-quarter-court heave against Illawarra in the Blitz that has to be seen to be believed (watch it below).
NBA IS WATCHING
While the focus is on getting acclimatised with his teammates and then hopefully leading them to NBL glory, the ultimate goal is a return to the NBA, where he has had but a taste — 20 games across stints with Memphis and the Bucks.
He jumped at the chance to play in the NBL, given the buzz of the past few seasons that has helped a number of locals and imports win NBA chances.
“I knew they (the NBL) had the ESPN contract and a lot of eyes are on this league, especially (from the) NBA, so it was a no-brainer,” he said.
“The league is very competitive.
“I was talking to Glizzo (teammate Cam Gliddon) the other day and I was just telling him this is one of the toughest domestic leagues that I’ve played in.
“It’s definitely growing. Guys like, for example, (former Cairns Taipan) Cam Oliver, (ex-United big man, now with San Antonio in the NBA) Jock Landale, Keifer Sykes (the point guard Munford replaced at Phoenix), guys who are getting noticed through the NBL.
“The Australian players are high-quality players.
“The talent is definitely there domestically and you see the list of imports who came in — guys who have been in the NBA or played a high level overseas. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger. I see the sky’s the limit for the NBL.”
He played against teammates Mitch Creek and Zhou Qi in the G-League, so has some familiarity there, and Munford was also a teammate of Perth Wildcats superstar Bryce Cotton at the Grizzlies.
“I haven’t seen Bryce in a while, but I’ve always been watching and paying attention on him doing his thing out here, and he’s had a great career in Australia,” he said.
Broekhoff gets Rowdy with three-point barrage as Phoenix blitzes United
The Throwdown fire has officially been stoked.
South East Melbourne Phoenix have won a juicy NBL Blitz pre-season finale against Melbourne United with an 89-87 thriller that went down to the wire.
In front of a small crowd for the first time since the end of last season, United and the Phoenix served up a competitive treat, trading blows throughout the game.
Chris Goulding started proceedings red hot but it was fellow deadeye Ryan Broekhoff who pulled the curtain on United.
In a blistering stretch of just over two minutes in the last quarter, Broekhoff drilled four of his six three-pointers to help snuff out the defending champions.
Broekhoff ended the afternoon with 21 points and seven rebounds, but the Phoenix did have a nervy finish, a late turnover gifting United a chance they ultimately squandered.
A scorching Goulding was in mid-season form, pouring in 18 points as the first half closed with the scores locked at 44.
It was a credit to the Phoenix they were able to keep it that close, given United’s flamethrower had drained seven of his nine shots, three of those from deep.
But Phoenix were in the habit of buzzer beaters, Cam Gliddon knocking in a basket as time expired on the first quarter before captain Kyle Adnam gloriously one-upped him with a half-court heave that gave his team a one-point lead heading into the final frame.
It set the stage for Broekhoff’s masterpiece.
Phoenix superstar Mitch Creek – looking as jacked as he ever has – used his powerful frame to cut a swathe through the United defence on his way to 18 points. Every time he put the ball on the floor, you could see the United defenders cringe. He got everything he wanted, whether it be hard finishes at the rim, fast break dunks, or time at the charity stripe after fouls.
The Phoenix were missing their giant man in the middle Zhou Qi, who is back in China representing his country in FIBA World Cup qualifiers.
It meant United bigs Jo Lual-Acuil and Ariel Hukporti had the chance to overpower the combination of Dane Pineau – who is just finding his feet after months on the sideline – and Tohi Smith-Milner.
JLA’s impressive pre-season has yielded 37, 13, 20 and 10 points as he shapes up as one of the NBL’s most improved players.
Nineteen-year-old Next Star Hukporti (13 points) gave United fans another taste of the potential that has him on most 2022 NBA draft boards, with a brilliant end-to-end play. A massive rejection at one end was punctuated by an even gaudier put back jam on a missed Goulding three on the resultant fast break.
Boomer Matthew Dellavedova struggled with his shot (one of seven for two points) but did set the table for United, dishing out nine assists.
New import Caleb Agada struggled with four fouls inside seven minutes before he made his first bucket – on the opposite side of halftime – and was disqualified early in the last quarter.
The Phoenix face New Zealand Breakers twice to open the NBL season proper, while United heads to Sydney for a tussle with the Kings.
But those clashes will just be the entree to a tantalising main course of a December 12 Throwdown that is set to rock a capacity crowd at John Cain Arena.
No average Zhou: Qi key to Phoenix hopes
Chinesesomething they have never seen at the club.
Sharpshooter Cam Gliddon says teammates have been wowed by Zhou — pronounced Jo — who has already hammered down a number of big dunks in the Phoenix’s undefeated start to the NBL Blitz.
He says the 216cm giant is the dominant centre the Phoenix has never had in its young history.
“When Zhou came in, (it) just took our team to another level,” Gliddon said.
“We’ve never really had a guy that can dominate the middle like that.
“We’re really looking forward to having him and we’re really happy he’s here.”
Qi scored 10 points on perfect shooting and ripped down eight rebounds in just 14 minutes in South East’s Melbourne’s opening Blitz win over Sydney.
In game two, he produced a 17-point, 10-rebound double-double in an extended hitout — 35 minutes — in the overtime win over Illawarra.
His length has been a massive problem for opponents. He has five blocks, but his presence forces teams to alter their offence when they look up and see a standing reach that is above the rim.
The Phoenix stretched the eventual champions Melbourne United to three games in the NBL semi finals last season, but Gliddon says his side is already better prepared.
“I think we are miles ahead of last year,” he said.
“We’ve got some great pieces and everyone’s hungry and competitive and ready to go, ready to beat up on some other teams.
“That’s a good sight to see.”
Gliddon has been forced to do a lot of watching as he recovers from off-season hip surgery, but his teammates would agree another good sight to see is his return to the court.
The marksman could suit up in Saturday night’s clash with New Zealand at MSAC.
Originally published as
#NBL #news #Devin #Thomas #Xavier #Munford #South #East #Melbourne #Phoenix #import #Delly #meeting #beach