An Eritrean from Italy: College basketball star making noise with the defending NCAA champions UVA.
Born in Bologna Italy Tomas Woldetensae is currently considered one of the best college basket ball players in the United States. He proved it within a short period of time even though he was already a Junior college All American that did very well. Tomas did not make his way up to the best college basketball team in America the way most players do. He worked hard and he earned it. You see growing up in Italy he was caught up between soccer, swimming and basketball. His mother who is an Eritrean was dedicated to his education and sports activities. She allowed him to be the best that he can be as she nurtured him and raised him to be a great student-athlete. Growing up in Bologna, a city known as the birthplace of the great stylish car Lamborghini as well as for its rich basketball history Zaid Wodetensae gave her son lots of confidence as she allowed him to pursue basketball at a high level. Even though he got injured a lot, Tomas was a talented athlete. He looked for high schools in the U.S. to pursue his dreams of playing basketball and ended up at Victory Rock Prep in Bradenton, Florida which he mentions was the only school that responded to him. After two seasons at Victory Rock Prep, Tomas decided to transfer to Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa.
After arriving at Indian Hills Community College he quickly learned to adapt to the lifestyle of a small town in rural America. The community college system in America allows people to learn and integrate student-athletes who may not be accepted by bigger universities or those who are not ready to make a career move to bigger schools. The financial aspect also makes a difference in the decision making. For Tomas it was more about cracking the system in the USA as many big schools did not offered him opportunities.
Enter IHCC in Ottumwa, Iowa known mainly for American Politics as it is located not too far from where the Iowa Caucuses are held during Presidential election campaigns. Coach Hank Plona who has a great JUCO program allowed Tomas an opportunity to start after a few games and the rest was history. Tomas averaged a team-high 17.3 points per game for the Warriors and shot 47.6 percent from 3-point range during his second season, where he opened doors for his next move at the NCAA division 1 level.
Tomas who is a 6-foot-5 sharpshooter left the national powerhouse Indian Hills CC and made a great decision when he picked the Virginia Cavaliers over a host of other programs, including Illinois and Central Florida. Meanwhile, local state schools, Iowa University Hawkeyes and the Cyclones of Iowa State did not even take a look at him let alone offer him a scholarship. When the University of Virginia came calling Tomas the Eritrean-Italian young man's dream of pursuing his career as a basketball star continued. He is also an excellent student and UVA was a perfect match.
Tomas a proven shooter, was able to contribute immediately to Tony Bennett's University of Virginia national championship team until the COVID-19 pandemic stopped all games going into the 2020 version of March Madness. However during the season he won many fans around the USA as he became a star and team player for the Cavaliers.
Tomas was quickly a key contributor for Virginia in the just completed 2019-20 season. He averaged 6.6 points per game, shot 36.1% from three-point range and led the team in three-pointers with 52 on the year. He made 7 three-pointers in a game twice and 6, including the game-winner, in a road win at perennial power house UNC as well as damaging some of the top basketball programs in the country.
Tomas recently gave a message of encouragement to the Eritrean people through a video message to Eri-internationalsports.org about staying safe during the COVID-19 epidemic while also wishing Eritrea a happy 29th year of independence. We wish Tomas a successful, safe and great 2020-21 season as he pursues a career in the NBA.