The sophomore jinx definitely struck Billy Thomas last season.
"I think I had a decent freshman year. Last year I was not as productive. There were some contributing factors to that," said Thomas, Kansas' junior shooting guard from Shreveport, La.
Thomas, who suffered from mono and nagging injuries, saw his productivity dip in just about every statistical area a year ago. He averaged 4.7 points on 35.8 percent shooting while playing 10.6 minutes per game. Thomas averaged 7.3 points on 43.5 percent shooting while logging 15.2 minutes his freshman season.
"I came down with mono symptoms in February that lasted the rest of the season," Thomas said. "I started to get well, but it was too late. I tried to come back but I was fatigued. I was not getting enough lift."
He feels energized entering this season.
"I worked out a lot this summer. I am strong. I picked up six or seven pounds. I'm a healthy 208," said Thomas, who stands 6-foot-4.
He's a robust 208 individual with back problems. Thomas suffers from lower back spasms.
"Nobody can figure out why," he said. "It's a matter of stretching it and getting treatment as much as possible."
Thomas said he's put his back problems out of his mind.
"I have high expectations for myself. Nobody wants to do better than I do," he said. "I want to be a contributing factor on this team."
His goals go beyond hitting three-point bombs. Thomas hit 54 of 151 threes (.358) last year after making 77 of 177 (.435) his rookie year.
"I'd love to be the guy who guards the perimeter player who is really good," Thomas said. "I see myself on the break more, dunking and finishing, doing things on the defensive end to get on the court."
Yes, Thomas wants to dunk.
He's dogged by the memory of a botched play in last year's NCAA tournament loss to Syracuse.
Thomas took his eye off a midcourt pass from Jacque Vaughn and fumbled a wide-open dunk opportunity, the ball squirting off his hands out of bounds with KU down 54-52.
Nobody was near Thomas at the time of the bobble.
"That is just a lack of concentration," Thomas said. "When I saw Jacque and the guy run into each other (before Vaughn's pass), I thought it'd be an offensive or defensive foul. I turned back, saw the pass and all I could think about was dunking the ball. It hit my hands and went out of bounds."
The Jayhawks went on to lose, 60-57.
Rumor mongers said Thomas was so distraught he was ready to transfer. Thomas laughs at the notion.
"I know there is no place in the country I'd rather be," Thomas said. "I think our chances are as good as anybody's this year. Luck was not on our side last year."
Also in an ill-fated September pickup basketball game when Thomas made contact with Vaughn on Vaughn's driving layup try. The KU point guard fell on his wrist, tore ligaments and will miss 10 to 15 games.
Thomas felt terrible about his role in the mishap.
"The first couple days after it happened, I hadn't talked to him and it was hard on me," Thomas said. "What he had been through with the NBA decision, working on his game six or seven months, I know what the game means to him.
"When he came up to me and we had a conversation, it was emotional for me. I know he knew I didn't do it on purpose -- he knew it was an accident -- but he reassured me he was not upset."
The Jayhawks play hard in their pickup games.
"It's very competitive out there," Thomas said. "We are all competing on a daily basis because everybody wants to play. It's good hard playing. Nobody is trying to hurt anybody. that's why I felt so bad."