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Senior Salute: Mike Thomas

If basketball players were judged on loyalty, faith and morality, Mike Thomas is perhaps the greatest in University of Hawai’i basketball history.

His basketball statistics are impressive enough, as he is the team leader in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage this season. With at least four more games remaining, he also has a shot at cracking UH’s top 10 career lists for field goal percentage, free throws made, and rebounds.

But it is his allegiance to the UH basketball team that is unprecedented.

For that – and much more – Thomas will be rightfully honored on “Senior Night” when the Rainbow Warriors host UC Irvine in the final home game of the 2017-18 season. It is scheduled to start at 7:00 p.m. at the Stan Sheriff Center; Thomas, Gibson Johnson and Zach Buscher will be honored after the game. It is also a “Whiteout” game, and fans are encouraged to wear white shirts.

“Real quick, crazy,” Thomas said of his five seasons with the Rainbow Warriors. “To think I even took a redshirt year and it still came this fast. I spent years 18 to 23 here, so it’s been a while. But it’s worth it.”

When head coach Eran Ganot labeled Thomas “The Rock” two years ago, it was a fitting description.

To put Thomas’ stability in perspective, he is the only player, coach, or staff member from the 2013-14 team that is still involved with the UH men’s basketball program. Every other person directly affiliated with the program since then either departed the school or changed roles.

“We have the Stan Sheriff, great facilities, great people here, great fan support, there’s no reason to leave,” he said.”I think a lot of factors played in, but I felt comfortable with my decision and I’m proud of it. Whatever happens this year, I’m proud of it.”

Of course, the program went through a roller coaster of changes since 2013. Thomas opted to stay for the ride, even after many tried to convince him to get off when the twists and turns became a bit much.

“Some told me I made a stupid decision (to stay), and there’s more opportunity elsewhere and stuff, but it’s a decision I have to live with, not them,” he said. “I’m happy with my decision.”

Here is a quick recap …

2013-14: After a stellar senior season at El Camino Real High School in California, Thomas signs Hawai’i and then-head coach Gib Arnold.

“I broke my hip when I was in the (AAU) circuit for travel ball,” he said. “A lot of schools dropped (recruiting) me, but Hawai’i was not one of them.”

2014-15: An NCAA investigation leads to the dismissal of Arnold and departures of others. Thomas vows to stay and play at Hawai’i under interim coach Benjy Taylor, and works his way into the starting lineup as a sophomore.

“Rod (Bobbitt) and Quincy (Smith) were like ‘you belong here, play like it because you’re going to be good,’ ” Thomas recalled. “It showed a lot to me. It showed how much they care.”

2015-16: The search for a head coach brings in Ganot. A few more players depart, but Thomas again re-commits to remain a Warrior. He is a starter for all 34 games on the unforgettable 2015-16 team that wins a school-record 28 games, including the first NCAA Tournament victory in program history.

“Being in that tournament, and just looking at the guys to the left and right of you, and understanding that nobody can take that from you, especially with all the nonsense the next year – just the penalties and restrictions that we had,” he said. “We played with no remorse, we didn’t care. It was an amazing time.”

2016-17: A preseason wrist injury triggers a redshirt season. Thomas could have accelerated his academic schedule during this year to look into potential “graduate transfer” possibilities, but he again proves his loyalty to Hawai’i.

“This is the best coaching staff in the world,” Thomas said. “They care so much and they love us so much … they’re our biggest fans. Amongst all these people, our coaching staff is our biggest fans and they want nothing but the best for us.”

2017-18: As fate would have it, Thomas gets to play on the same team as his younger brother, Brandon, for the first time since they were in grade school. Mike Thomas emerges as the senior leader and “go to” player for the team. If he continues to lead the team in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage for the entire season, he will become just the fifth player in UH history to do so. The only others to complete that rare triple crown at UH are Tony Wells (1977-78), Reggie Cross (1988-89), Vander Joaquim (2011-12) and Stefan Jankovic (2015-16).

“What ever comes of it, comes of it … I love it here, I love the people here,” he said.

Thomas said his Christian faith is the foundation for all of his decisions. He said part of the reason for him staying at UH is because of the relationships he formed with fellow worshippers here in Hawaii.

“It’s another reason why I stayed,” he said.

Academically, he is on pace to graduate this Spring with a degree in Business Marketing. He has already started an internship with the renowned International Management Group (IMG).

He would also like to test his basketball skills in the professional ranks, should the right opportunity arise.

Regardless of what’s in the future, he wanted to make sure that his parents and family – and the Hawai’i fans – understand that they all played a role in his decision to stay and thrive as a Warrior.

“It’s crazy when you go around the streets and people recognize you and stuff. They make you feel big in a place that, I’m so insignificant to this world on a large scale, so it really means a lot, it’s really cool” he said. “Just a big thank you to all the people that have helped and supported.”

Perhaps it is everyone else within and around the program who should be thanking Mike Thomas for modeling the virtues of University of Hawai’i men’s basketball.

HAWAI’I (16-10, 7-6 Big West) vs. UC IRVINE (15-15, 10-4 Big West)
When:
Saturday, Feb. 24, 7:00 p.m. HT
Where: Stan Sheriff Center (10,300) – Honolulu, HI
Television: Live on Spectrum Sports – Channels 16 (SD) and 1016 (HD).
Streaming Video: BigWest.TV (Must be a Spectrum cable subscriber to stream in Hawai’i).
Radio: ESPN 1420 AM. Neighbor islands can listen live on KNUI on Maui, KPUA on the Big Island, KTOH on Kaua’i, and KNWJ in Pago Pago, American Samoa.
Audio Webcast: ESPN1420AM.com/Sideline Hawai’i App.
Live Stats: HawaiiAthletics.com
Ticket Information: Ticket Information: Lower Level – $30 for all seats; Upper Level (prices vary by section) – $18 or $20 for adults, $16 or $18 for senior citizens (65-older), $5 or $7 for students (ages 4 to high school). UH Manoa students free with validated ID. Parking is $6.
Promotions: The University of Hawaii Federal Credit Union is the “Senior Night” game sponsor and will distribute 3,000 men’s basketball team photos and 300 foldable fans.
Whiteout: All fans are encouraged to wear white UH apparel.
Autographs: Players and coaches will be available for autographs following the game.

Saturday’s Games
UC Riverside at UC Davis
UC Santa Barbara at CSUN
Long Beach State at Cal State Fullerton
UC Irvine at Hawai’i, 7:00 p.m. HT

3 Comments

  1. Wow. Awesome.

    Thank you Mike for staying at UH!

  2. Know that Eran had a tough decision to take UH job after Benjy left. With that group that came back, Eran had a great run. UH had recruited great athletes and good guys , Eran good X and O coach, though very young, that first year, with Mike T. playing awesome Power Forward, won 28 games. Key to that Hawaii 5-0 bench cheering on Q, and Rod, and the Stefs, Airon? Brocke and Zach. So really 3 key returnees from previous team recruiting class. WE thank All 3 , Brocke is so key to being the Best and mature guard UH has. Zach, that local connection, who stuck it out and Will grad. Wonder if Brocke will grad this May or December 2018? Nice if All Three of those Key guys, will grad, show what courage, and love that their families and They had for Hawaii. We Thank Zach and Mike who will be honored Saturday nite. And Brocke who was invited as a preferred walkon. I am sure Eran is working out something to take care of that..THREE stellar, athletes and people !
    Mahalo to the Seniors !

  3. Even as a freshman, Thomas was thoughtful and well-spoken. He is the consummate student-athlete. I have no doubt he will be a success in whatever he chooses to pursue after graduation. Mahalo, Mike, for staying and playing here.

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