The Nebraska Cornhuskers will have a chance to impress a potential frontcourt transfer with former Texas A&M power forward Elijah Thomas scheduled to visit Lincoln this week and attend the Huskers' conference opener versus Northwestern. The 6'9" Thomas was widely rated as a top-50 talent in the 2015 recruiting class, but was unable to secure consistent playing time early in his freshman season at Texas A&M. Because Thomas announced his intention to transfer prior to the end of the first academic semester of the 2015-16 season, it is likely he will soon make his transfer decision and enroll for the second semester at his new school so that he will be eligible to play the second half of the 2016-17 season for his new team.
According to ESPN's Jeff Goodman, Nebraska is in Thomas's final five schools, along with Gonzaga, Arizona State, Clemson, and San Diego. He had a completely different cast of final schools for his original recruitment out of high school, including John Groce's Fighting Illini squad. The Nebraska visit is sandwiched between visits to Clemson and Arizona State.
In eight games of action at Texas A&M, Thomas averaged 3.8 points and 2.5 rebounds per game in limited minutes. Injuries were a reoccurring issue during his stint in College Station, including one of the most unusual injuries to ever befall a college basketball player. Thomas cut his foot on a sea urchin, which caused him to miss multiple games on Texas A&M's summer team trip to Europe. A handful of other injuries may be a factor in Thomas falling behind his three fellow top-100 freshmen in Billy Kennedy's rotation.
It tends to raise some eyebrows when a basketball player chooses to transfer early in their college career, but Thomas certainly isn't the first player willing to sacrifice a year of basketball in search of greener pastures. Circumstances can change quickly and it would be unwise to attempt to speculate about the reasons why a player is looking to transfer. As Nebraska lacks a wealth of in-state basketball talent and the Cornhuskers do not have a storied basketball history to lean on, head coach Tim Miles is wise to keep his eyes and ears open when it comes to possible transfer candidates. Terran Petteway transferred to Nebraska from Texas Tech back in 2012, and that move worked out quite well for both Miles and Petteway.
Thomas would add some much needed size and height to a Cornhusker team that KenPom evaluates as having the 2nd shortest 'effective height' in the Big Ten. Nebraska is presently one of the younger teams in the conference but will be losing a big piece after the season in senior forward Shavon Shields. The 6'7" Shields currently leads the Huskers in minutes per game at 29.7 and is among the Nebraska per-game leaders in points (16.3), rebounds (5.5), assists (2.9), and steals (1.5). With Shields moving on, Thomas would have ample opportunity next year to carve out a role as a post scorer and impact rebounder.