TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — In Arizona Women’s Basketball’s NCAA tournament opener Saturday, Wildcats senior Sam Thomas will face off against her sister Jade, a sophomore guard who plays for UNLV.
“Seeing our names on [Selection] Sunday show up against each other, it was a really exciting feeling,” Sam said in a Zoom call with reporters this week. “But it’s also kind of a sad feeling knowing one of our seasons is gonna end.”
“I’ve also always wanted to play in the McKale Center, so I’m super excited to go play there,” Jade said. “And it’s good to see her cause like our family’s not together a lot. So for us to all be together. Yeah, one of our season’s gonna end, but one of us also gets to advance, so just gotta look at the brighter side.”
Sam has March Madness experience, but this is Jade’s first NCAA Tournament. Both sisters are captains on the court for their squads.
They grew up together in Las Vegas, but never played against each other—especillay not on this big a stage.
“During little work outs we’ve played against each other,” Sam said. “But we’ve never actually had like this much pressure and other teammates with us.”
The sisters say there’s added pressure playing each other, but also added comfort.
Sam went home to Vegas in December to visit family and even caught one of Jade’s UNLV games.
Not only has Sam watched the Lady Rebels over the past few seasons, but she also used to play with and against some of their players back in high school. She says she knows the roster pretty well.
“I worked their camp one year this past summer. So, kind of know everyone and it’s gonna be super funny I think,” Sam said. “Gonna try to use that to my advantage, tell my teammates ‘She’s going right every time, or she’s doing a spin move.’ Doing whatever I can to help my team win.”
Of course, Jade also knows Sam’s game well.
The Thomas family will be in attendance supporting both Sam and Jade. And no matter the final score, the family will come out a winner.
“Obviously we’re gonna congratulate the winner and then my mom’s gonna be there to hug the loser and just let them know that it’s ok,” Sam said.
“My family is my favorite people in the whole wide world,” Jade added. “I always wanna see them go far. So if it’s not me going far, I’m happy that it’s my sister going further.”
There are more Tucson connections in Saturday’s first round game, which tips off at McKale Center at 7 p.m.
UNLV Freshman Alyssa Brown was a decorated player at Sahuaro High School.
And Lady Rebels assistant coach Karlie Burris also grew up in Tucson. She played at Salpointe Catholic and graduated in 2005.
Ryan Fish is an anchor and reporter for KGUN 9 and comes to the Sonoran Desert from California’s Central Coast after working as a reporter, sports anchor and weather forecaster in Santa Barbara. Ryan grew up in the Chicago suburbs, frequently visiting family in Tucson. Share your story ideas and important issues with Ryan by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by connecting on Facebook and Twitter.