TUCSON, Ariz. — The first round of the NCAA women's basketball tournament will feature a family reunion of sorts when Arizona faces off with UNLV on Saturday as Arizona senior Sam Thomas matches up against her sister Jade, a sophomore guard for UNLV.
"Seeing our names on [Selection] Sunday show up against each other, it was a really exciting feeling," Sam Thomas said during a Zoom call with reporters earlier this week. "But it's also kind of a sad feeling knowing one of our seasons is gonna end."
"I've also always wanted to play in the McKale Center (at the University of Arizona), so I'm super excited to go play there," Jade Thomas said. "And it's good to see her because, like, our family's not together a lot. So, for us to all be together — yeah, one of our seasons is going to end, but one of us also gets to advance, so (you've) just got to look at the brighter side."
Sam Thomas has March Madness experience with Arizona, but 2022 will mark her sister's first NCAA Tournament with UNLV. Both are captains on the court for their respective squads.
They grew up together in Las Vegas but never played against each other— especially not on such a big stage.
"During little workouts, we've played against each other," Sam Thomas said. "But we've never actually had, like, this much pressure and other teammates with us."
The sisters say there's added pressure playing each other, but also added comfort. In December, Sam Thomas went home to Vegas to visit family and even caught one of her sister's UNLV games.
Not only has Sam Thomas watched the Rebels over the past few seasons, but she also used to play with and against some of their players back in high school. She says she knows the roster pretty well.
"I worked their camp one year this past summer. So, (I) kind of know everyone, and it's going to be super funny, I think," Sam Thomas said. "(I'm) going try to use that to my advantage, tell my teammates, 'She's going right every time,' or, 'She's doing a spin move.' Doing whatever I can to help my team win."
Of course, Jade Thomas knows her sister's game, too.
The Thomas family will be in attendance supporting both Sam and Jade. No matter the final score, the family will come out a winner.
"Obviously, we're going to congratulate the winner, and then my mom is going to be there to hug the loser and just let them know that it's OK," Sam Thomas said.
"My family is my favorite people in the whole wide world," Jade Thomas said. "I always want to see them go far. So if it's not me going far, I'm happy that it's my sister going further."
This story was originally published by Ryan Fish on Scripps station KGUN in Tucson, Arizona.