Ivan Rabb is expected to play in the NBA one day soon, but the Cal freshman forward wasn’t even named Most Valuable Player on his eighth grade team.
That honor went to a girl – close friend Asha Thomas, who is a freshman point guard for the Cal women.
“I didn’t know how to feel. I was surprised,” said Thomas, recalling the moment five years ago. “How does a girl on the boys basketball team get MVP?”
There remains no argument from Rabb, who already was 6-foot-7 as an eighth-grader at Montara Middle School in Oakland, and has sprouted to 6-10. Thomas was at just about her full height then: 5-4.
“I remember I was excited for her,” Rabb said. “I’ve never been the type of person to get jealous. I just like to see people succeed and be happy. She contributed a lot.”
Donald Miggins, who coached for the Montara team, recalled asking a few other players their opinion before giving the MVP to Thomas. She averaged about 12 points for an unbeaten team that also included future Division I players Paris Austin (Boise State) and Aisia Robertson (Kansas).
“The reason why I voted for Asha to be MVP was the way she held herself and held her own in practice. That girl was a dynamo,” Miggins said. “If we needed Ivan to take over, he did. But she was a leader and they respected her. Best of all, she was a 4.0 student.”
Rabb and Thomas will be on the same court again Saturday – albeit not at the same time — when Cal hosts a doubleheader at Haas Pavilion. The men take on Saint Mary’s College at 12:30 p.m. before the 22nd-ranked women play Nebraska at 5 p.m.
Classmates at Bishop O’Dowd High after middle school, both are thrilled to be continuing their journey together. Thomas said she never tried convincing Rabb to choose Cal from the myriad offers he had, but said it’s great for the school and the community that he stayed home.
“It just seemed like it was going to happen,” Rabb agreed.