You are here

2015 Today’s Top 10: Mark Thomas

The once overlooked recruit overcame the odds to make history at his school and for HBCUs

It’s hard to fathom that the 2014 Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association Player of the Year was not a top recruit after his senior year in high school. In fact, Livingstone College was the one school that gave Mark Thomas the opportunity to earn his degree and fulfill his dream of playing college basketball. Having the chance to live that dream became invaluable for Thomas because, soon after he graduated, the game he loved was taken away from him.

With the goal to play at a mid-major Division I school, but without any offers in hand, Thomas spent his freshman year at Delta College, a community college in his home state of Michigan. There, he refined his craft and earned freshman of the year honors in  the Michigan Community College Athletic Association, catalyzing a successful collegiate journey that would finish at Livingstone.

Initially, Thomas had a difficult time establishing his place on the Livingstone team. In three years, though, Thomas transformed from a sixth man who played sparingly to a starter and leader for the Blue Bears who earned numerous school, conference and All-American honors. Thomas also led Livingstone to its first CIAA championship.

“It wasn’t just about us winning a basketball game; it was about the alumni and the students who were there,” he said. “It was something to be proud of because we never really had any men’s basketball history. It was just something great to do.”

He has made more history – he is the first student-athlete from a Historically Black College and University to receive the Today’s Top 10 award.

“(It’s good to know) that I actually did something for HBCUs,” he said. “It’s not just me; I did something positive for HBCUs.”

After college, Thomas hoped to pursue a professional career overseas, but that was cut short by a life-threatening scare. He collapsed while training over the summer and was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition that required surgery and brought his dreams of a pro basketball career to an end. Although he grappled with the diagnosis initially, he has come to peace with his fate and hopes to channel his love of the game into a coaching career.