In 2015, Truman State University men’s basketball head coach Chris Foster thought he was getting a pretty good recruit as he welcomed Bolingbrook, Illinois, native Brodric Thomas to campus for his first semester as a Bulldog. The Bolingbrook graduate averaged 17 points, six assists and four rebounds per game in high school, earning recognition as Fourth-Team All-State, First-Team All-Conference, First-Team All-Area, and helping the team get to the best record in school history.
Head coach Chris Foster said he began recruiting Thomas during his junior year of high school after colleagues recommended that he go and watch him.
“After watching him play, I really loved the way he played,” Foster said. “He was a very unselfish player on a very successful high school team. He is a very skilled player and has a great understanding of how to play the game and always had a way of stepping up for his team when it mattered the most.”
Once at Truman, Thomas said he was determined to come in and make an immediate impact. In just a few short months, that vision became less clear for the freshman. During preseason conditioning, Thomas said he heard a pop and was diagnosed with a torn ligament in his hip. Official practices and the opening day of the 2015-16 season were quickly approaching, and the injury called for a re-evaluation of his athletic career. In fact, for some, that kind of injury would be the end of their athletic story.
It is often difficult to come back from injuries, and Thomas said the transition was even more difficult for him while he was trying to adjust to the speed and strength of the game. He said he stuck his freshman year out, using a redshirt to rehab his hip and get his mind in the right state of determination to make a comeback. At the end of the year, facing academic eligibility challenges, Thomas had to transfer — choosing Southwestern Community College as his new home for his academic and athletic career. Foster helped Thomas in the transition process, and made sure he would find a place that would fit and challenge him.
Little did Thomas know this would be one of the most influential years of his life. Not only did his physique change as he grew several inches and gained roughly fifty pounds — his game changed, and he added some major hardware to his trophy case. In his redshirt freshman season at Southwestern Community College, Thomas helped his team capture a national championship with a 36-1 record. Thomas was named MVP of the NJCAA National Tournament, and he raked in accolades of First-Team All-Conference, Second-Team All-American, All-Region XI Tournament Team, and was a three-time ICCAC Conference Player of the Week. Thomas excelled as one of the top guards in the nation in the NJCAA, and coaches took notice. Thomas said the season gave him experience and maturity on the court, and coaches at all levels were hot on the recruiting trail for the JUCO standout.
The process ended up coming full circle for Thomas. In August of 2017 — one national championship and 36 wins later — Thomas was re-recruited by the Bulldogs, and returned to the familiar space of Pershing Arena, surrounded by the familiar faces of Truman teammates and coaches he’d bonded with two years before.
Foster said now more than ever, Thomas is a proven winner. He said his winning mentality and versatility to succeed no matter the circumstances, combined with the leadership experience he gained last season were qualities he wanted to welcome back in his program.
Thomas had several opportunities to play at bigger name schools after his redshirt freshman season, but he said he felt most at home with Foster and the Truman program who eagerly welcomed him back.
“Coach Foster did a good thing for me and believed in me,” Thomas said. “He saw my potential and encouraged me in this whole process, and to that, I felt a loyalty. I owed it to him and my team.”
Thomas said he is excited for the opportunity to be a contributing factor this season for the Truman program. This year, the team has the same strength as it does weakness — being young. Thomas said this season poses a challenge because the team lacks older players that can help mentor the incomers or less experienced players. Yet at the same time, Thomas said having a roster full of underclassmen creates exciting possibilities and will be a strength for the Bulldogs as they have the chance to grow together as a team and build better chemistry each year.
After all his experiences thus far, Thomas said he wouldn’t change a thing about his experiences as a collegiate athlete.
“The sport of basketball has shaped every part of the man I am today,” Thomas said. “It runs in my family genes as my mom, dad and sister all played college basketball at big-name schools like Ohio State and Michigan State.”
Thomas will have the opportunity to continue to make a name for himself as the redshirt sophomore and the rest of the Bulldog men tip off at 5:15 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 11 against Trevecca Nazarene University.