UP photo
Thomas van der Mars is having a breakout season for U.P.
UP photo
Thomas van der Mars is having a breakout season for U.P.
The practice drill called for the Pilots to split into two teams of six. Each team was at opposite ends of the court with five players stationed about 10 feet apart just outside the three-point arc and one player with an assistant coach under the basket to rebound.

The goal was to sink as many three-pointers as possible in five minutes. Every 60 seconds, players rotated one spot to the left.

The problem was the Pilots have 13 players, so someone had to be left out.
That someone was Thomas van der Mars.

"Thomas, you go over there," Pilots coach Eric Reveno said. He had something better and more appropriate for the 6-foot-11, 235-pound junior center to do. At a side basket, van der Mars bounced a ball off an elastic backstop near the top of the key and back to himself before wheeling in the lane and going into what has become his signature move — a right-handed jump hook shot.

The Pilots don't want van der Mars to start launching shots from almost anywhere.

They want him to concentrate on developing a low-post presence, because that's where they see him doing the most damage, mostly as a scorer, but also as a rebounder and a shot blocker.

Van der Mars led all scorers with 17 points in a 87-56 rout of Southern Utah at the Chiles Center earlier this month and became one of three UP players to score 100 or more points through the Pilots' first eight games. He didn't reach 100 points in scoring last season until Game 16. So, the center from Gouda, Netherlands has basically doubled his offensive output from a year ago.

"Thomas is really kind of blossoming," Reveno said. "I mean, he played against some really high-level competition at Oregon State and Michigan State and he held his own. And now if we execute properly and get Thomas the ball in the right spots, teams are going to have to decide how they want to defend that.

"He's not the kind of guy that you can just give the ball to him anywhere on the floor and let him create for himself. But you get the ball to him in the right spot, he does his job real well."

Against Columbia, van der Mars hit his first seven shots from the field — most of them hook shots — and finished with a team-high 14 points on 7-for-8 shooting to pace the Pilots to a 69-52 victory.

The one miss? Also an attempted jump hook.

"When he came off, I told him why he missed the last one — because he pivoted too fast," Reveno said. "He sort of smiled at me like, 'You don't ever let up, do you?' "

No, he doesn't, but van der Mars doesn't mind listening to anything from Reveno that is going to make him better.