28 July, 2023
05 August
3 Jessica Thomas (CMR)
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Cameroon's Jessica Thomas having her way at the 2023 FIBA Women's AfroBasket


(KIGALI) - Rwanda - Suiting up for one's country is an honor many athletes can only dream of.

So when Cameroon called, Jessica Thomas didn't think twice about accepting, and she proved coach Ahmed Mbombo Njoya right, by being the team's floor general.

At the 2023 FIBA Women's AfroBasket in Kigali, Rwanda, Thomas is averaging 9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.

But beyond the numbers, it's her leadership, ball-handling skills and vision for the game that are making headlines.

Journalists, observers and fans alike have praised her performance in the team's two Group B games against Mozambique and Guinea.

Coach Mbombo is confident that Jessica will remain an important part of his squad.

"Jessica is a leader who brings a lot to the table in terms of passing and scoring big baskets. I would also like to highlight the chemistry she has with the other players, as she didn't know them and how the others reacted to her presence," Mbombo said.

The player who began her career in golf is now living to the rhythm of basketball, a sport she did not discover until much later.

Inspired by her three brothers, one of whom played professional football, it was only fitting that she take up a sporting discipline. But when she discovered basketball, she was hooked.

" My family played golf. But at school, when I was on the playground, I started playing basketball with the boys. And I loved the excitement of it, how you can express yourself compared to golf, which is a quiet sport. Basketball is a little more exciting for me, so that's basically how it started for me," she told FIBA.basketball.

She experienced moments of doubt and difficulties, but she never regretted her decision. "I never looked back once, even in difficult or tying times."

A product of the University of South Florida, she played college basketball from 2013 to 2017, averaging 11.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.

She graduated from high school in 2013, at a time when the NBA Jr. Programs weren't a thing, and went on to ply her trade in France, Turkey, and Israel, and now defends for Turkey's Nesibe Aydın.

"It might seem funny, but I didn't have that much in my time. I played 5x5 basketball, then in middle school I started playing organized basketball. And then I got into travel basketball."

Being an import player on an already talented roster means a lot to Thomas, but she doesn't let the pressure build.

"I'm in my bubble doing my thing. All I think about is getting on the court and performing. I look at the pressure as an opportunity. I mean, to be here, on this stage, leading a team at this stage, it's so much more than pressure."

Indeed, she seems so comfortable on the court. But when she compares the way the game is played in Africa and Europe, she has only one word to say. "Physical! It is very physical. Europe and AfroBasket are so different. It's a lot more physical here than in Europe where I've been," adds the 5'6" point guard.

Meeting her teammates and fitting in are moments she will cherish forever. "I can't thank this team enough for being so welcoming. We have great chemistry off the court and people don't realize it. You see the chemistry on the court, but off the court everyone is willing to listen and learn. It was hard at first because they speak French and I don't. But it is a great opportunity and a great experience."

Playing for the country is the pinnacle of any athlete's career. For the point guard, it means a lot. "To play for Cameroon is something big. Honestly, I never imagined that I would represent this country. And I'm doing everything in my power to represent it proudly."

Now that the 2023 FIBA Women's AfroBasket is underway, she wants to live the experience to the fullest. "We're here for the trophy, nothing else. Cameroon has a young generation of players both on the men's and women's side. That's why I'd like to ask the fans to follow us for more moments of pride."