Q&A with Cam Thomas about Nets, playing under Jacque Vaughn, and ties to Portlock Primary elementary school

Brooklyn Nets guard Cam Thomas (24) runs up court against the San Antonio Spurs during the second half at Barclays Center
Brooklyn Nets guard Cam Thomas (24) runs up court against the San Antonio Spurs during the second half at Barclays Center / Vincent Carchietta - USA TODAY Sports

Nets guard Cam Thomas has a lot of fond memories from growing up in Chesapeake, Va. Some of the best come from his time at Portlock Primary elementary school. He remembers the classes, teachers and all of the hours that his mom, Leslie Thomas, spent volunteering at the school.

“A lot of great memories,” Thomas said in a phone interview last week. “That’s why I want to give back.”

For the second straight year, Thomas is doing just that. He’s donating $5,000 back to the school this year, providing resources for Portlock’s literary vending machines. The machines provide books to students who earn them through their performance at school.

“I just want to give back as much as I can and help them as much as they can because I was in their shoes,” Thomas says. “I wanted someone to give back when I was coming up. So I just want to be a resource for them, help in any way I can.”

This is the second year Thomas has donated to his former elementary school. He says it’s something he hopes to continue in the years to come.

“I just want to leave a lasting impact on them. And to show them that I’m very thankful for the teachers who helped me coming up when I was in school there,” Thomas says. “I want to be a resource for them.”

Thomas has also been a resource for the Nets this season. In a three-game stretch during Kevin Durant’s absence, Thomas averaged 10.7 points on 50 percent shooting in 17 minutes per game.

Below, Thomas talks to SNY about the Nets, life without Durant, playing under Jacque Vaughn, and his ties to Portlock Primary.

Dec 10, 2022; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Cam Thomas (24) shoots the ball against Indiana Pacers guard Buddy Hield (24) in the second half at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
Dec 10, 2022; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Cam Thomas (24) shoots the ball against Indiana Pacers guard Buddy Hield (24) in the second half at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. / Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

SNY: WHAT ARE SOME MEMORIES FROM YOUR TIME AT PORTLOCK?

THOMAS: You’re first going to school, so there’s a lot of good memories. I was real invested, my mom was real invested, volunteering, parent-teacher meetings. We were really invested in Portlock Primary growing up, so that’s why I want to give back to them. A lot of great memories. My mom volunteering at the school is probably my biggest memory. Birthday parties, parent-teacher meetings, you want to have a parent that’s invested in your education, so those are great memories.

SNY: WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO DONATE YOUR RESOURCES TO PORTLOCK?

THOMAS: With the platform I have, to be there and to be able to give back is important. I just want to give back as much as I can and help them as much as they can. I want to be a resource for them.

SNY: WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE PLAYING FOR JACQUE VAUGHN?

THOMAS: Coach has been amazing in leading us all together, giving us input, letting us give ideas. Just talking things out. It’s been great. It’s really rubbed off on us as a team. A coach like that, you really want to play hard for him. You don’t want to let him down. You want to give your all to a guy like that.

SNY: DOES THAT APPROACH IMPACT HOW A TEAM PLAYS ON THE COURT?

THOMAS: Definitely. Sometimes we have a game-plan and it doesn’t work every time. Since we’re the ones out there playing, we have a feel for it. Our instincts kick in. So if we need to switch a defensive coverage or switch things up offensively, we can give good input on how the game is flowing. That’s been really good for us.

SNY: WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE TEAM’S ABILITY TO HANDLE KEVIN DURANT’S ABSENCE?

THOMAS: I feel like we have a great group to handle it this year. Last year, we didn’t really handle it great. It was a lot going on. We struggled. This year, I feel like we have a group that’s more cohesive and we can handle it way better than we did last year. So I think we’ll be just fine.

SNY: PERSONALLY, HOW HAVE YOU DEVELOPED FROM LAST YEAR TO THIS YEAR?

THOMAS: I have a better understanding of the NBA game and how it works. Of course, I still want to get better. I’m only in Year 2 but I feel like I have a better understanding of the NBA style of play. So that’s a big thing for me. I’m just going to continue to learn, continue to talk to KD, Kyrie about what to look for. Just pick their brains. I think I’ve become a better player in that aspect and I just want to keep growing.