Alyssa Leading the People
Like the famous Eugene Delacroix painting Liberty Leading the People where Liberty is holding the flag of the French Revolution, Alyssa Thomas, a basketball forward superior, will this weekend lead her University of Maryland teammates towards a Women’s NCAA National Championship.
Senior Alyssa Thomas was recently named ACC Player of the Year for the third straight year and became the program’s leading scorer on Friday, March 14 when she passed Crystal Langhorne by accumulating 2,258 career points. What’s more impressive is that she only needs 12 points to pass Juan Dixon’s record and become the leading all-time basketball scorer in Maryland history.
The flag waving Liberty has nothing over Alyssa Thomas wearing a Maryland Pride Jersey.
I have been fortunate to follow Alyssa now for three years through my association with Maryland Coach Brenda Frese’s Under The Shell media program. I come to this point in time having seen the best basketball players display their talents at Cole Field House and at Comcast since the early 1970’s. Let me tell you – I am convinced there has been none better than Alyssa – not in basketball heart, not in soul, not in her affectionate smiling, not in talent and not in pride – Maryland Pride.
You are truly missing an event if you don’t take time on Sunday, March 23 at 12:30 to watch #4 Seed Maryland take on Patriot League Champion #13 seed Army in a first round playoff game at the Comcast Center. Single session tickets start at $12. It may be your only chance(s) to see Alyssa up close in her Pride uniform.
I could wax on about Maryland and its storied athletic programs and it’s ACC sunset and future B1G sunrise, but today it’s not about the program or the team or it’s past – rather it’s all about Alyssa – who is still growing up – and my singular view as a sports portrait photographer taken in her presence during the last three years.
Sit back, pour some more coffee and read on it.
Alyssa, the Lioness and all her Friends
2014 – Duke, Cameron Indoor Stadium. Viva La Vida. I knew it the moment I saw the photos in post processing. A series of 4 photos shot under the MD opposing basket said it all. Coldplay’s Viva La Vida – The album cover. It was the inspiration for this blog – I had the game day photo of the lioness. The lioness scrambled on the floor for a loose ball under the basket – bodies and teammates went flying everywhere. At some point there were 6 of the 10 players on the floor around the ball. Up pops Alyssa from the scramble reaching skyward towards the net. Just then Duke’s fallen Alexis Jones #2 hand stretches towards the number 25 just under Alyssa’s heart. Alyssa makes the basket but Maryland loses an ugly contest at Cameron to their nemesis Duke. It would be last time any Maryland team would play at Cameron (until the B1G convinces the ACC that these two should play again).
Weeks later bothered by the image I researched it and found Coldplay’s use of Delacroix’s painting Liberty Leading the People. Look it up, damn if it’s not Liberty on the basketball court stepping over all the bodies. Rather it’s the Lioness – Alyssa and she is smiling – beware NCAA opponents she can be very scary and wears a Pride flag uniform.
Alyssa and her Family
2014. After the Syracuse game a funny thing happened – media interviews were finished and both teams gathered out on courtside to chat amongst each other. I caught Alyssa and her mom Tina Klotzbeecher-Thomas near the home backcourt. Tina had a cold, ever the mom she did not want to infect Alyssa so they clasped arms and smiled. And now you know where Alyssa gets her smile.
Caught in the stands in 2012 cheering on his sister is Devin Thomas. Yep, for those of you who are cognizant of ACC teams – that’s the same Devin Thomas who is the starting sophomore forward for Wake Forest University. Oh and he is wearing a U of MD Football hoodie.
Senior day at Comcast, Alyssa is accompanied to center court by mom and dad.
Alyssa in the Rafters
2012. With the Comcast Center jumbo-tron display overhead Thomas stepped in front of my camera framing her in unison with the building dressed in Maryland’s home Whites. For this photo I drained out all the opposing colors except for the Reds, Yellow and Black to outline her in White – the four colors of the MD Flag/Pride uniform. This iconic image of Thomas standing tall in Comcast would foretell the day when her jersey would be raised above that display.
2012. In what was the first of many photos of Alyssa I catch the first hint of her smile and desire on the court. She was just starting to have fun and a run up to her first POY Award in the ACC.
A few more of my favorites of Alyssa
Alyssa, being chased in practice
I stopped by practice one day while working nearby in College Park. Cameras in hand Brenda and her managers allowed me to take pictures. The team practices against men. Towards the end of the session I caught Alyssa being chased down in a running drill. It’s not a perfectly focused shot but the gentleman’s shirt with “Obey” and the playful look of Alyssa running away with the ball makes for a good picture story.
Alyssa and Coach
2014. Senior Day – Comcast. I have lots of photos of Brenda Frese and lots of photos of Alyssa. Got them hugging, patting heads, going to the sidelines, etc. etc., but this one here they are singularly in front and in focus. Both are intense, both concentrating and both are on equal planes with Alyssa in the center, a coach and her senior star.
Alyssa has left the building
2013. If the basketball gods permit and Maryland rises to the challenge they will face an opponent in the second round of the NCAA’s this coming Tuesday. It will be at the conclusion of that game regardless of the outcome – Alyssa’s last game at Comcast. Rest assured many in the crowd will be standing and applauding but as she leaves family members will be close by to share that experience.
As was done in this Polaroid transferred image of Alyssa being hugged by her sister Alexi, the lioness will walk through the tunnel for the last time with her MD Pride flag on and her name among the Maryland best in the rafters of Comcast.
I brought my daughter, a Maryland grad to a Lady Terps game earlier this year. She sat courtside behind the home basket. After the game while on our way to dinner I ask what she thought of the game and in particular Alyssa Thomas. She blurted it out right away “she’s always smiling while she plays” and to that I answered “it was the thing I noticed first when I put my camera on her. It is why I love to take pictures of her.
She has fun playing – like there is no other place she would rather be.
Best of Luck to you Alyssa – it’s been fun.