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Former Arizona women’s basketball fan favorite Sam Thomas retires

Los Angeles Sparks v Phoenix Mercury Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

It was a great run for former Arizona forward Sam Thomas. The five-year starter saw the depths of Arizona women’s basketball in a six-win season and reached the highs with a run to the national title game. Now it’s time to move on after she announced her retirement from basketball on Sunday.

“This chapter of my life is closing but I’m excited to see what God has in store for me in my next journey. Real world here I come!” Thomas wrote in her announcement on social media.

Thomas was the first top 100 recruit to commit to Wildcats head coach Adia Barnes. She came in when the cupboards were bare, but she hung around to see the team accomplish things the program never had before. She was an integral part of that climb both on the court and off.

Thomas ended her time at Arizona ranked first in both minutes (5,125) and games (154) played. She started every game of her five-year career. She ended her time in Tucson averaging 9.0 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.3 blocks, and 1.7 steals in 33.3 minutes per game.

In the classroom, she was a CoSIDA Academic All-American two straight years (2021-22), becoming the first player in Arizona history to accomplish that. She was also the 2021 Pac-12 Scholar Athlete of the Year and the Elite 90 Award winner for the highest GPA at the 2021 Women’s Final Four.

Thomas was honored as a member of the Pac-12 All-Defensive team three straight years from 2020-22. She was All-Pac-12 in 2021 and All-Pac-12 honorable mention in 2020 and 2022. In 2018, she was a member of the Pac-12 All-Freshman team and Arizona Athletics’ Female Freshman of the Year.

After finishing her career at Arizona in 2022, Thomas spent one full season with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury as an undrafted free agent. For a team that has waived all of its rookies and rarely even had first-round draft picks in recent years, it was a huge accomplishment.

Despite playing limited minutes in her year with Phoenix, Thomas made the Associated Press WNBA All-Rookie squad in 2022.

Thomas then went to play one year in Italy before returning for camp with the Mercury in 2023. She was waived towards the end of training camp, although she came back for a few games early in the season.

The road ahead should be bright for Thomas. Before she opted to come back for her fifth season at Arizona, she had been offered a job with Nike. She also interned with Arizona Athletics during her final year in Tucson.