Veteran center Etan Thomas practiced with members of Washington's summer league team Friday, his first full-contact team action since undergoing heart surgery to repair a leaky aortic valve in October.
The healing process kept Thomas on the sideline for the entirety of what would have been his seventh season. The 6-foot-10, 260-pound center received clearance to resume strenuous activity in January but wasn't allowed to take part in contact drills because his sternum had yet to completely healed.
Thomas began taking part in noncontact portions of practices in February, but with only a few weeks left in the season, his sternum was still only 50 percent healed. Physically he felt fine, but taking a hard shot to his chest could have jarred his chest cavity, which would require another surgery to reset it.
“It was a long year of waiting,” Thomas said after Friday's practice. “And when you're almost there, but not quite, that's the hardest part. Because there was a lot that I could do, but I couldn't take any contact. And then I could take a little bit of contact, but not a lot. It was kind of frustrating, but now I feel great. I can take whatever contact that comes. It was a little tempting at times just to go out there and try it anyway, but I listened to the doctors - sometimes I can be a little hardheaded - but I listened to the doctors and now I'm glad I waited.”
Thomas said he received full clearance “about a month ago” and since then has trained with former Maryland standout Tony Massenburg.
“He's been banging on me a lot and stuff like that,” Thomas said. “I'm feeling good. I don't have any reservations or limitations or anything like that. [But] it's different when you're going in practice, in the structure, you're going through drills and playing four-on-four and things of that nature. So, I just wanted to come out there and practice with those guys a little bit, get in some drills and coaching.”
Thomas won't join the summer squad in Las Vegas but will continue to train in preparation for training camp in October.
Wallace, Thomas show skills
Former Georgetown point guard Jonathan Wallace and George Mason forward Will Thomas were among the players invited to the Wizards' minicamp in hopes of making the summer league team.
After going undrafted last month, Wallace talked with “a few teams” about joining their summer league squads but settled on the Wizards because their offense is similar to the attack he directed at Georgetown. He said his knowledge of the system gives him a better chance of making the Las Vegas squad and possibly figuring into the Wizards' future plans.
”I'm pretty familiar with the overall scheme of things,” Wallace said. “I know the spacing and overall intentions of the offense. It's kind of given me a little bit of a leg up, and I was able to adapt to the offense in a short time period.”
Thomas also went undrafted last month but didn't have invites from other teams. So when the Wizards extended him a tryout, he gladly accepted.
“It was great, not having to travel that far,” he said. “Just coming from Baltimore, just an hour away, so didn't have to worry much about travel. I want to show I can play on this level. I want to go out there and play hard on defense, score my points when I can on the offense and play as hard as I can all the time.”
Former Wake Forest product Vytas Danelius, College of Charleston's Dontaye Draper, Drexel's Frank Elegar, Massachusetts' Gary Forbes, Winthrop's Taj McCullough and Fairleigh Dickinson's Mike Peeples are also working out with the Wizards.
The team's second-round pick from 2006, Vladimir Veremeenko, is expected to join camp Saturday after complications obtaining his visa delayed his arrival from Russia.