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Big East Lottery Look Back: 1997

For the second straight day, the Lottery Look Back takes a look at a Villanova player.

Tim Thomas


The Green Bay Packers won their first Super Bowl in 30 years.

A young golfer named Tiger Woods demolished the field to win the Masters.

Mike Tyson took a chunk out of Evander Holyfield’s ear.

Also in 1997, Villanova big man Tim Thomas became the 12th lottery pick in Big East history.

Tim Thomas

Born in Paterson, New Jersey, Thomas attended Paterson Catholic High School and was named to the McDonald’s All-American team his senior year after averaging 25.3 points and 14.5 rebounds per game. Thomas considered going right to the NBA from high school, but eventually committed to Villanova.

Thomas’ freshman season at Villanova was a success, averaging 16.9 points and 6.0 rebounds per game en route to winning the Big East Rookie of the Year. Villanova made the NCAA Tournament as a 4-seed and defeated Long Island before falling to California in the second round. Thomas made the decision to declare for the NBA Draft shortly after, and after just 32 games, his Villanova career was over.

In the 1997 NBA Draft, the New Jersey Nets selected Tim Thomas with the seventh overall pick. The Nets immediately traded Thomas to the Philadelphia 76ers for Keith Van Horn. Thomas was the only freshman selected in the 1997 draft.

Thomas succeeded initially in Philadelphia. He averaged 11.0 points per game and was named to the All-Rookie Second Team. In his second season, though, Thomas struggled early on. The 76ers grew impatient and traded him to Milwaukee.

Thomas would shine in Milwaukee, spending six seasons and averaging 12.2 points and 4.2 rebounds per game, including a career-best 13.3 points per game in 2002-03.

During the 2003-04 season, the Bucks traded Thomas to the Knicks. His two seasons in New York saw him average 12.0 points per game. From there, Thomas’ story gets interesting.

Before the 2005-06 season, the Knicks traded Thomas to the Bulls. After just three games in Chicago, the Bulls were dissatisfied with Thomas’ lack of conditioning and sent him home, eventually releasing him in March 2006. Thomas signed with Phoenix and finished the season strong, appearing in 26 games and averaging 11.0 points per game. Thomas also hit one of the biggest shots in Suns history.

Thomas turned his playoff performance into a four-year contract with the Los Angeles Clippers, and played there for three seasons before being dealt back to New York. In February 2009, the Knicks traded Thomas back to the Bulls.

Thomas’ career concluded with a short stop in Dallas, as he played 18 games before retiring.