Where Are They Now?: Jamel Thomas Details His Life Story, Sebastian Telfair’s Career, & the Current Status of Stephon Marbury
Today, Hoopist brings you the second installment of our Where Are They Now column. The first installment saw former NBA player God Shammgod discussing the art of dribbling, training Kobe Bryant and his favorite ball handlers in the game today.
Jamel Thomas, former NBA player and Providence standout, is featured in the second installment. He details his life story, discusses his brother Sebastian Telfair’s play and how he cousin Stephon Marbury’s life has panned out.
Hoopist: So, we caught up with your former college teammate God Shammgod in the first installment of our Where Are They Now column, and he said you’re also training players in the offseason. Who are you training?
Jamel Thomas: From December to March, I train a lot of high school kids, and all of the kids I train are pretty much future Division I athletes. I have a kid that attends Poly Prep; I train him at least 3-4 times a week. He’s like the closest thing to my little brother Sebastian Telfair when he was in high school. His name is Wolfgang Novogratz. Look him up. He’s going to be really good. His goal is not only to play DI, but to reach the ultimate level of basketball, the NBA. So, we really go hard with him.
Hoopist: Oh, okay. Do you train any current NBA players?
Jamel Thomas: I train Al Harrington during the offseason. This past offseason, we worked on a lot of post moves and back-to-the-basket stuff. His face-up game is already there, so we’re trying to incorporate a back-to-the-basket element in his game. I also help my brother Sebastian Telfair a lot.
Hoopist: How do you think Sebastian’s career has panned out? A lot of people say your brother didn’t blossom into the superstar everybody assumed he would be.
Jamel Thomas: I think he is doing well. It’s a funny situation because if you look at some college guys like Trajan Langdon, he did four years in college and got drafted 11th but only did two years in the NBA. Sebastian, with no college, is on his ninth year in the league. I think what I’ve installed in Sebastian over the years has helped him prolong his career – things like learning how to play the pick-and-roll and letting him train with other floor generals. In his younger years, he trained with guys like Mark Jackson and Ben Gordon; those guys taught him a lot. He had good experiences in high school, and it carried over to his NBA career.
Hoopist: Do you think your brother has reached his full potential?
Jamel Thomas: I put it like this. I’m always hard on my little brother. He doesn’t train as hard as he used to. His body is still almost the same as it was when he was a senior in high school. But we’ve been talking lately about hitting the gym really hard this summer. We need to change his entire body and his presentation coming into training camp for the 2013-2014 season. I think, then, he will blossom into the player everybody assumed he would be.
Hoopist: Looking back, how do you think your professional career panned out? Do you think you could or should have done more to be a little more successful in the NBA?
Jamel Thomas: I think my NBA career was a great experience for me and others around me. I was able to give game and knowledge to my little brother Sebastian. I paid attention to all of the drills we did in practice and how the game was played.
It was kind of frustrating because I wasn’t in a position where I was comfortable because it was always that possibility that I could get cut from the NBA roster. I would never know when or if I was going to get cut and sent home, so I always had to prepare for my next move. But I took a lot of positives out of all of that.
Hoopist: Speaking of your next move, after your professional career, you wrote a tell-all book called “The Beautiful Struggle,” which was published in 2008. What inspired you to begin writing?
Jamel Thomas: Basically, it was just my life experiences that inspired me. Even though I was only 31 at the time, I feel like I had been through so much, and I felt like it could help the next generation. I have a lot of inspirational stories in my life. My story is similar to the movie The Blind Side. That’s the reason I am the way I am, and the reason why my brothers and sisters are totally different. I moved out of Coney Island when I was 15, so I saw something totally different. Growing up, I lived with a Jewish couple, and people understood me a little better after reading the book.
Hoopist: The Blind Side is one of my favorite movies because of how transparent it is. Talk more about how your life was similar to Michael Oher’s life in the movie
Jamel Thomas: Well, I was a troubled kid growing up, and I was on the urge of living a pretty violent life. My mother was murdered when I was four years old, and I never knew my father. Sebastian’s mother and father really became my parents at one point. I had a lot of anger in my heart, and I didn’t know how to channel my aggression. So, when I moved in with the Jewish couple, they helped me become a better student in school and helped me become a better overall person. They basically helped me find my way to basketball.
Hoopist: In the book, you also raised a few eyebrows by talking about Stephon Marbury’s behavior during that time. As cousins, do you guys still have a relationship?
Jamel Thomas: We don’t have a relationship, but he’s still my cousin. If I say something bad about him, then that’s just what it is. But if I’m around a group of people and they try to agree with me and say something bad about Steph, I’m not going to allow it. At the end of the day, he’s still my cousin, and I still have to support him.
Hoopist: What do you think about Marbury’s current status?
Jamel Thomas: Well, Steph put himself in that situation, and I think he understands it now. His daughter is my goddaughter, and he tells his kids all of the time that he made a mistake. He wants to prevent his kids from doing the same. His daughter is a singer, and she has the potential to have an awesome career as well. He’s maturing and will hopefully bounce back.
Hoopist: Do you still keep in touch with your former teammates on that Elite 8 Providence team?
Jamel Thomas: Of course. We just had a 15-year anniversary party in May for that Elite 8 journey. The only person from that team that wasn’t there was Austin Croshere. We talk about it all of the time. Shammgod always says, ‘Man, if we would’ve won that game, all of our lives would be different right now.’
Hoopist: What are you thoughts on the current status of Providence’s basketball program?
Jamel Thomas: I have a good relationship with the head coach that’s there now, and my buddy Shammgod is the assistant coach. Providence encourages the alumni to come back and participate, so I will forever love that school.
Hoopist: Is there anything else you have in the works that you’d like to share with us?
Jamel Thomas: Well, in February, my book will be a curriculum at Providence, so hopefully by next April, I’ll be going on tour for the book. We’re going to try and branch it out to inner city high schools after that. That’s my main focus right now.