HARTFORD, Conn. — Sitting on a shelf in Jasmine Thomas' Connecticut apartment is an orange copy of "The Power" by Naomi Alderman, a book that questions what would happen if the roles of men and women were reversed. It's an interesting choice considering the current state of the WNBA.
"It's getting better in terms of people really being aware of the product," Thomas said. "The more you watch it, the more we can get viewership up, the more people can realize like, 'Yeah, we're women and we play basketball, but we're actually pretty damn good at it. We're not just out here for fun. We really want to be taken seriously, and we should be taken seriously.' "
Upon entering Thomas' apartment you're welcomed by the smell of four candles burning — a few by the windows, another on an end table. At first you might think burning so many different candles at once might be overpowering, but the scents Thomas has chosen — vanilla, blueberry, apple and a mystery scent — meld seamlessly. Thomas' life is much the same — a blend of various interests that make up one woman who wishes not to be defined by one talent, but by her whole personality.
Thomas is sitting on a gray couch clutching her 8-month-old poodle Oliver when she casually notes how much she appreciates any story she reads that makes basketball players seem human. As a member of the Connecticut Sun, with whom she began postseason play on Thursday against the Phoenix Mercury, Thomas can find countless stories about herself with the words "point guard" or "Sun player" preceding her name as a means of defining who she is. Like every other player in the WNBA, though, Thomas is much more than just an athlete. Behind all the poise that players project to achieve respect, is a desire to be seen for who they are off the court, too.
The adjectives that could be used to describe Thomas are countless. A woman on the go 24/7, she keeps herself as busy as possible outside of basketball. She's a homeowner, dog mom, blogger, fashionista, Pinterest addict, aspiring cook and avid reader. While she might not have much time between practice, games and travel, Thomas uses every second of it to focus on her various passions.
Thomas began sharing her life outside of basketball with people when she created her blog around four years ago. A quick glance at her home page and you can easily see who she is — organized, adventurous, multi-faceted. A year-round player, Thomas updates her blog most frequently when she's playing overseas and feels like there are more opportunities for interesting content. There are blogs from her time in Turkey and Italy, and this summer she'll be in Poland.
"It was always a really inconsistent thing, and even now sometimes it's hard," Thomas said of her blog. "Whether it's not having enough time to figure out how to get some good content or just it's easier overseas to blog than it is in the summer. The schedule's a lot slower-paced, there's a lot more things going on that people who are my main audience in the blog are all in the states so when I go overseas I feel like it's more interesting stuff for them to see when I'm not in America."
Her time overseas is a byproduct of her profession, and while she enjoys traveling, she said she would prefer WNBA players not have to go to other countries to make up for the money they aren't making in the U.S.
When it comes to basketball, Thomas has had an interesting career. She was a star at Duke and was drafted 12th overall by the Seattle Storm in 2011. But she was traded to the Washington Mystics before ever suiting up for Seattle. Two years later she was traded to the Atlanta Dream. And after a season with the Dream she was traded to Connecticut, where's she's found a home and finally hit her stride as a player.
"A lot of it is confidence," Thomas said. "Being in a situation where I feel like I'm supported by the management down to the players on the team, it makes you feel comfortable. It makes you want to grow, and it makes you feel a loyalty. It's a family feeling that you only really experience in college so to experience that at the pro level is something special.
"But also, speaking about the WNBA as a league, we aren't fortunate to have that developmental period like in the NBA where you can go to summer league, you can go to these pre-camps before the draft to kind of have people tell you how to be a good pro or what they're looking for you to do as a pro. So sometimes it takes some of us a little longer to find out how we can be successful in this league, and I think in my case that was what it was."
In her first year with the Sun, Thomas set new career highs in several statistical categories, but it was 2017 when she really began to shine. She averaged 14.2 points per game, recorded 54 3-pointers and scored in double digits 26 times, earning her a WNBA All-Star selection. Thomas has continued that success into 2018, emerging as a leader as the Sun secured a playoff bye.
It only seems fitting that the win that clinched the No. 4 seed for Connecticut featured a strong output from Thomas, who scored 27 points against the Sparks on Sunday afternoon.
"There was a determination by our leader," Sun coach Curt Miller said after the game. "Jasmine Thomas was literally everything we could've asked for tonight. She just willed us — we talked about (whether) our will was going to be bigger than their will at halftime — and there's no one with bigger will tonight than Jasmine. And she just brought us all along with (her)."
Thomas' will has been a key to her success. When she's on the court she's determined, wearing a look of laser-like focus. She isn't always scoring in double digits, but when her shots aren't falling she's using her boundless energy to grab rebounds and make no-look assists to her teammates.
She never quits, never slows down, never gives up.
She brings the same mentality to the court as she brings to her everyday life. Despite retirement being years away, she's already thinking about and preparing for life after the WNBA. In one of her blog posts Thomas defined the league as her "rock and my gateway to network for a life after basketball."
Last year she bought a house in Virginia, which she's filled with inspiration from her meticulously laid-out Pinterest boards. She said she's only been able to live in it for about a month due to her basketball schedule, but takes comfort in knowing it will be there when she's ready to move in full time. A marketing and sociology major at Duke, she has considered sports marketing as a possible career path and maybe teaching later on in her life.
"First of all, with the amazing women in the (WNBA) there are so many that do things outside of basketball while they're playing that when they're done that's a network itself," Thomas said. "They're always trying to remain a resource for players in the league, but then you meet so many people all around the world playing basketball that I get to know their families and other things they're interested in… Being able to be in the world of sports and seeing if that's maybe something I want to stay in and do after has been a great resource for me in that I've interned and I'm also always asking our marketing people questions about the business side of the WNBA.I think marketing is a big thing for us and important for growing our league. I think that basketball has helped me kind of figure out if that's something I want to do afterward."
Thomas is, of course, focused on some immediate goals. Her tasks include trying a few recipes from the cookbook she just bought — 5-minute mac and cheese and slow cooker mixed berry cobbler — deciding what best-seller to read next, and leading the Sun to a second-round playoff victory.
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