Torey Thomas lives out his dream of playing professional basketball and giving back to others.
By Kelsey Horton
Special to GoHolyCross.com
Former men's basketball standout Torey Thomas (Class of 2007) always had one dream: to play professional basketball. In high school Thomas would commute from his hometown of White Plains, N.Y., to Trinity Catholic in Connecticut so that he could play for their highly competitive basketball program. The sacrifice payed off with a full basketball scholarship to Holy Cross. As a Crusader, Thomas left his mark, being named the 2007 Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year and earning first team All-Conference honors. His name also appears a number of times in the Holy Cross record books, as he is ranked second all-time in steals (268) and games played (125), fourth in minutes played (3,628), fifth in assists (468) and 10th in three-pointers attempted (319). After graduation, Thomas had the choice to either take a job offer or continue on with his basketball career in Europe. He opted to follow his dream.
Since this life changing decision, he has been named the 2008 Swedish Basketligan Player of the Year, the 2009 Dutch League Defensive Player of the Year and the 2011 Polish League Most Valuable Player, in addition to earning 2010 All-Dutch League and 2012 All-Russian League honors.
While Thomas has appeared to seamlessly adapt to European basketball, adjusting to the different styles is part of his job. "The basketball rules are the same in each country but the style of the game varies from country to country," said Thomas. "Some leagues are more physical than others as well as more fast breaking than other leagues." On top of learning different styles of play, he must learn how to assimilate in other cultures, but for Thomas this is one of the benefits of playing abroad. "The best part of playing abroad is learning about different cultures, traveling to different countries and cities, and interacting with so many languages and people," he said.
While in the midst of living his dream, he has made it his mission to help others reach theirs. During the summer, he dedicates his time off to helping the youth in his hometown. He founded a non-profit athletic club called the New York Blaze for kids ages 7-18. The organization is not only designed to help kids with basketball, but teach them other valuable aspects that will help them succeed off the court. Their motto is "Life skills through sport."
"N.Y. Blaze is a grassroots program," said Thomas. "I thought of creating this program when I started to see how kids in my neighborhood looked up to me. I wanted to create an outlet for the kids to develop their skills on the court as well as be well rounded individuals and learn through comradeship."
Thomas stresses that along with teaching these skills, the main objective is helping kids open doors for themselves with athletic scholarships. As the face of the organization, Thomas shares his own experience in hopes of inspiring others. "We try to tell them it's not just basketball. Basketball opens up doors of opportunities. If you really want to do this, you need to take this seriously. Holy Cross is about $50,000 a year. That's $200,000 that people don't have. I had a scholarship. I was very fortunate. The message I try to send to them is basketball is a tool that you can use and if you have the right people behind you, then you can get a scholarship which turns into a degree," Thomas explained.
"Blaze has grown so much in the past years," Thomas said proudly. "Our nine-year old group qualified for the National Tournament in Orlando last season and we finished in 13th place. We are now looking to qualify this summer to go to Charlotte, N.C., for another chance to become even better than last season."
Thomas is also heavily involved in another basketball driven non-profit organization called MVP Basketball Camp that hopes to bring kids together from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Thomas first attended as a camper himself when he was in the sixth grade. Eventually he became a coach and now that he is professional basketball player, he is a guest speaker. He even has his own segment called "Tuesdays with Torey."
Thomas proves through all his continuous involvement in the community that even across the world, he remains a true Crusader at heart. "The motto of men and women for others is something I really can identify with," said Thomas. "I am so blessed and fortunate to be able to play basketball and live my dream. I always know that it can be over at any moment so I always try to help others when I can."
While Thomas is successful overseas and in his hometown, don't think that Mount St James has seen the last of him. "My goal one day after basketball is to come back to HC to coach!"
If you would like to learn more about Torey Thomas' professional career and community involvement visit his website at: gotorey.com.
*Fun Fact* The website's name was inspired by goholycross.com.