He is the dean of area basketball coaches. He has coached at Thomson High School longer than anyone and is currently the longest serving faculty member.
Michael Thomas is preparing to lead the Thomson Bulldogs boys basketball team for his 30th season. Those previous 29 seasons include 487 victories, eight region championships in what is arguably one of the toughest basketball regions in Georgia and two Final Four appearances.
It's unusual, in this day and time, to see a man coach in one place this long, and Thomas has had several chances to leave for other high schools and even some assistant positions at the college level. Thomas, however, a pastor of two small Baptist churches, has never felt led to leave. Thomson and McDuffie County are better for that.
For the past two weeks, Thomas has been preparing the 2011-12 edition of the Bulldogs in what he hopes will be a successful year. With Westside, who returns its two top scorers; Josey, who returns almost its entire roster; and Richmond Academy, a perennial power in our subregion, just making the state playoffs is a chore.
Still, Thomas is optimistic with the return of several experienced players, including seniors Ronkeem Sallywhite, Jonathan Atkins, Antonio Coleman, BiQuavious Sturgis, Jamontae Beard, Anthony Moss and Dewayne Williams. Sallywhite, Moss, Williams and Atkins produced a total of more than 40 points per game and more than a dozen rebounds last season, so a great nucleus returns.
A major key to our success is the development of several young players who will be depended upon to contribute quality minutes in case of injuries or foul trouble. Among those are Jordan Davis, a 6-foot-5-inch junior post player, and sophomore guards Felton Hatcher and Ryan Kelly. Because of the success of our football team, the availability of these three as well as veteran center Atkins and other potential players will be delayed as long as we remain in the state playoffs. On the bright side, this gives some younger players more repetitions in practice and time to hone their skills in some early games, which begin Nov. 19 in the Coaches Against Cancer Tournament here in Thomson.
Coach Thomas finds it rewarding this year in that two of his former players, Cordaro Crawford and Laterrance Casey, will be assisting him. Like all dedicated coaches, Thomas loves seeing his former players follow him into the profession. Former Bulldogs Tim Daniels, Octavious Mulligan and Pat Reece have also spent time as coaches.
Thomas, who cites Mac Morrison, his coach at Jenkins County, and Thomson legend Luther Welsh as the biggest influences on his coaching career, has also seen several of his players play professionally. Vonteego Cummings, who played collegiately at Pittsburgh, spent three years in the NBA and still plays professionally in Europe. Zavian Smith and Marcus Allen played several years in Europe after stellar college careers at Georgia State and Paine, respectively. Another former Bulldog, Carmelo Antron Lee, who played at Long Beach State, has played for many years in Puerto Rico and was on their Olympic team in 2008.
While it's rewarding to see young men use athletics to further their education and professional careers, he, like his mentor Welsh, gets the most joy out of seeing his players become great citizens, husbands and fathers.
We have been lucky to have Michael and his devoted wife, Liz, as part of our community for 30 years. They have made a difference in so many lives. Go Dogs!