Checking into the game with his team down by seven points late in the fourth quarter at home against Tuscola, senior Kole Thomas knew it was up to him to spark a run for his team. Catching a pass from his teammate, Thomas pulled up from the top of the three point line and knocked down the shot while getting fouled and making the free throw for the four-point play. Just moments later Will Lindsey led a fast break and dished the ball to Thomas who made a layup to bring his team within one. The Falcons capitalized on the run to beat the third place Mountaineers 88-83.
Just a few years earlier, Thomas found himself in a hospital with doctors rushing to find answers for Thomas’ medical emergency. Diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, and chronic renal failure, doctors concluded his chance of playing sports again was very slim due to his conditions and the operations that would be expected to take place. Now as a senior Thomas serves as a key player and leader for the varsity Falcon basketball team.
“My doctor calls me her miracle,” Thomas said. “I am very grateful that I got the opportunity to play basketball again.”
Just months before entering his freshman year, Thomas started to develop many different symptoms, however, he was unsure of what was the cause. Seeking immediate medical attention doctors began to notice a failure in his kidney functions. With only two percent kidney function, Thomas knew the odds were not in his favor, but he continued to battle back to the point where he is now.
“It was by the grace of God that I was able to make it out of that situation,” Thomas said. “The odds were clearly against me yet I was able to overcome them.”
Thomas surprised many when he earned a spot on the junior varsity basketball team just months after many grueling tests and surgeries. Combining a healthy diet with workouts Thomas was able to improve his game throughout the season. Although playing time was hard to earn Thomas saw the experience as much more.
“I did not get a whole of minute my first year,” Thomas said. “But it was a major accomplishment and I was thankful to be able to play the sport I love.”
The return was not easy for Thomas as he was presented with many setbacks, most noticeably a torn meniscus his junior year which sidelined him for four months. Thomas ,frustrated by the consistent setbacks, used them as motivation to strengthen his body for his senior season.
Thomas’ teammates have watched his comeback in amazement, all pointing how how his play has continued to improve. Lindsey has played basketball with Thomas since middle school and really embellishes to play with such a special player.
“It is extremely humbling to watch Kole come back from such a huge obstacle, it really shows the kind of guy he is,” Lindsey said. “He dedicated his life to playing basketball.”
Now in his final season, Thomas has developed a role as a one of the better defenders on the team and a reliable scorer off the bench. As his final games countdown Thomas wants to be remembered for his strong work ethic and effort.
“I want to be that guy that people say worked his butt off and competed with everyone,” Thomas said. “It is my last go around so I want to give it everything I got, and get everything I can out of the experience.
Thomas gives credit to his family for always having his back during his struggles and helping him become the person he is today. Thomas’ main motivator is his brother, Kevin Thomas who is a former West Henderson football standout who was able to play football at the collegiate level.
“I have always looked up to him and wanted to be just like him,” Thomas said. “My work ethic really came from Kevin, he really inspired me to do better things and achieve what I want in both life and sports.”
The basketball team started the season slow, but were able to turn their season around the second half of the season with a 9-17, 5-9 in conference, record under first year coach Joey Bryson. The roster is younger than past years featuring only four seniors and five underclassmen. Bryson believes the season has become a valuable lesson for the team and opens the door to future years of success.
“We are definitely progressing, high school athletics come in cycles and right now we are the bottom of a new cycle,” Bryson said. “We have a lot of young guys getting valuable experience which will make us even better next year.
With the season coming to an end, the team was able to come together and end the season on a positive note. Earning a spot in the end of season conference tournament, the team dominated the first round beating Smokey Mountain by 27 points. The team moved on to the semifinal losing a close game to rival North Henderson. With the team improving in almost every stat category at the end of the season, Lindsey believes the future is bright.
“We really started to play above expectations and come together as a team to surprise people,” Lindsey said. “I am really proud of these guys and I believe the future is really bright for them.
By: Josh Conner