Born into old Arizona-UNLV basketball rivalry, Dedan Thomas Jr., attracting UA’s recruiting attention |  Arizona Wildcats basketball

Born into old Arizona-UNLV basketball rivalry, Dedan Thomas Jr., attracting UA’s recruiting attention | Arizona Wildcats basketball


Despite the “Midnight Lute” moniker that former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian famously slapped on him decades ago, for allegedly recruiting high-profile snatching Tom Tolbert out of his hands at the last minute, Lute Olson sometimes watched things go the other direction.

At least Dedan Thomas Jr. would vouch for that. He says his dad, Dedan Thomas, actually once committed to Olson at Arizona, then decided instead to play a key role for Tarkanian’s final UNLV teams in the early 1990s.

It was the kind of story that was all too typical of the once-heated rivalry between the two college coaching legends, the kind Thomas Jr. has heard plenty about.

“All the time,” Thomas said. “Every time I’d see one of my dad’s old friends, they would tell me about it.”

Three decades later, Dedan Thomas Jr. is being recruited by both UNLV and Arizona, among other schools, and Monday received a scholarship offer from the Wildcats.

A 5-foot-11 point guard from the class of 2024 for Liberty High School in Henderson, Nevada, Thomas drew the attention of UA coaches during Section 7 play at Glendale’s State Farm stadium last weekend.

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Houston may be driving a wedge in a possible battle with Arizona and UNLV. Thomas said LSU, BYU, and Washington State are among those expressing interest while noting that he has already taken unofficial visits to UNLV, Arizona and Houston.

“When it comes the time to pick up a school, I just feel like I need to be somewhere where I feel at home, feel comfortable with my situation and my living conditions,” Thomas Jr. said, “and just most of all feels like family.”

Having developed a reputation for only selectively offering scholarships under coach Tommy Lloyd, Arizona coaches evaluated Thomas and several other four-star class of 2024 point guards at the Section 7 event last weekend in Glendale.

Among the others that caught UA’s eyes were Zoom Diallo of Curtis Senior High School in the Tacoma, Wash., area and John “Juni” Mobley Jr. of Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman High School.

Both of them also have nicknames worth noting: Diallo’s name is actually a shortened version of Vazoumana — “growing up not a lot of people knew how to say my name,” he said — while “Juni” is a nod to Mobley’s maternal Puerto Rican roots.

On the court, Diallo is a 6-foot-3, 180-pound guard who led Curtis to the Washington 4A title in February and expressed excitement for getting to play schools against top teams and players from high in other states at Section 7.

“I wanted to challenge myself, trying to keep up with them and guarding them,” Diallo said. “Because when I get to the next level, I’m gonna play good, talented guards like that. You’ve gotta play hard and make a statement against those type of players.”

Diallo said a lot of schools contacted him starting last Wednesday, the first day coaches could directly call or text rising high school juniors, noting that Arizona, UCLA, Oklahoma, Stanford, Washington and Washington State have all expressed interest.

The 5-11 Mobley said he’s heard from schools such as Arizona, ASU, UCLA, Ohio State and Missouri. Describing himself as a shooter, facilitator and defender, Mobley said he’s seeking a playing style that will fit him in college.

“I’m looking for a good relationship with the coach and a team that fits my game the best” in scoring and facilitating, Mobley said. One in which “the guards lead.”

Contact sports reporter Bruce Pascoe at 573-4146 or bpascoe@tucson.com. On Twitter @brucepascoe

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