Most athletes wouldn’t cite a torn ligament as one of the best things to happen in their career, but senior Brodric Thomas is an exception.
Today Thomas is considered one of the best college basketball players in Truman State University history and its division with a college career total of 1,170 points and a two-time first team all-GLVC title, but none of his success could have been predicted when former head coach Chris Foster took a chance on the skinny kid from West Chicago’s Bolingbrook High School.
“I was six foot, a hundred and sixty pounds dripping wet, so this was probably my best offer coming out of high school and this was the best opportunity for me,” Thomas said.
The relationship he built with Foster made his decision to come to Truman easier, Thomas explained.
Excited to start playing at Truman, Thomas hoped he would get some minutes his freshman year, but a torn ligament in his hip forced him to redshirt for the season and brought those early aspirations to a halt. Looking back, though, Thomas does not linger on the negativity of that experience. While he still considers himself quite the impatient person, he said the setback taught him a huge lesson in patience.
“I had a growth spurt and just transitioned and made my game develop to a level that I didn’t think might have been possible back then,” Thomas said.
Although the growth spurt was a bonus, Thomas pointed out that improving the mental aspect of his game during that time was, perhaps, the number one thing that helped him continue his career.
Thomas said his involvement with basketball began when he was born into a family of athletes and sports enthusiasts.
“I remember this one picture in our family photo album of me in diapers with a Little Tikes basketball running around with that,” Thomas chuckled. “So as early as I can remember I had a ball in my hand. It just runs in the family so I just fell in love with it right away.”
Thomas said he has always had support from everyone close to him, especially his mom, dad and sister.
He said his mom travels five hours sometimes for games, even if the weather is bad.
“Just them trying to be there for me and giving me words of encouragement, it’s just the satisfaction I need and drives me to keep going,” Thomas said.
Assistant coach Austin McBeth said Thomas struggled academically during his first year at Truman and, after becoming ineligible to play basketball, transferred to a junior college for a year to improve his grades.
During his time at junior college, McBeth included, Thomas’s basketball team won its national championship and Thomas became, arguably, one of the best players in Div. II.
What really made an impression on McBeth was that Thomas decided to come back to Truman after receiving multiple offers to play for mid-major and high-major Div. I basketball programs.
McBeth said Thomas chose to honor Truman’s program and Foster’s decision to take a chance on him.
“It seems so selfless,” McBeth said. “It seems so honorable and it was something that, if I were in the same position, I don’t know if I would have done that.”
It was that display of character that McBeth said made Thomas stand out to him as not just a quality player, but an upstanding person, as well.
McBeth said Thomas has a good balance of humility and confidence that pushes him to win, no matter what he has to do.
“He has a very humble heart, but he’s a killer,” McBeth explained. “When it comes down to it, he’ll beat you by 30 and not feel bad and not ask if you’re okay.”
While he is serious when he needs to be, McBeth said the moment the ball stops bouncing, Thomas is goofy, often cracking jokes or dancing.
Sophomore Hunter Strait, Thomas’ teammate and roommate, said making people laugh is just one of the things he and Thomas have bonded over.
“He’s a very easy going person,” Strait said. “He’s a very straight up person, too. He’s gonna tell you how it is, and I’ve always respected him for it. That’s why he’s a great leader for our team.”
Thomas, however, is not the type of person to just give criticism and advice, he’s also willing to take it. McBeth said he is surprised at how coachable Thomas is despite being so talented.
Often, players who are so talented can be arrogant and unwilling to seek out ways to improve, McBeth said, but not Thomas.
“He’s one of the most coachable kids I’ve coached in the seven years I’ve been doing it, especially with the talent he has,” McBeth said.
His talent has made for many great memories at Truman, but Thomas said his favorite has to be this year’s game winning shot against Missouri Southern State University. With only 2.7 seconds left in the game, Thomas moved the ball down the length of the court and got it through the basket as the final buzzer rang out.
While he was pretty confident with his ability already, Thomas said that buzzer beater validated all the hard work he had put into gaining confidence on the court.
Right now there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding Thomas’ future with basketball but he hopes, and McBeth predicts, he will be playing for money after college.
There are rules against college athletes talking to agents while they are still playing for their college team, so right now, Thomas said, agents can talk with his coach and his coach can relay information to him.
Once he is allowed to talk to agents, Thomas said a lot will depend on how well he can communicate and network.
“Statistically I think he’s put himself in a position to at least get NBA teams to have conversations like, ‘We probably need to bring him in and at least have him workout, maybe have him be on a summer league,’” McBeth said. “I think he’s proven that he can be at that level.”
Right now, though, Thomas is still focused on giving his all to his college team. He said first and foremost his goal is to play his role on the team to the best of his abilities.
More concretely, Thomas is looking for a national championship. He said he thinks the team has a good chance of achieving that goal this year.
“[I’m] just motivated and also excited because I know how well, how good this team is this year and how capable we are of going deep into the playoffs,” Thomas said. “So I’m excited for the future just as a whole.”