Thomasson not your average Joe

Senior is a key cog for Raiders

Wright State senior guard Joe Thomasson may not have tapped his sneakers together like Dorothy and her ruby slippers, but he discovered at the end of a three-year recruiting odyssey something that the Wizard of Oz heroine learned: There’s no place like home.

Thomasson verbally committed to Wright State during his senior year at Thurgood Marshall but didn’t have his academics in order to be admitted. He ended up at State Fair Community College in Missouri and blossomed into a prospect even high-major programs coveted.

After his freshman year, he attended the Jerry Mullen Junior College Top-100 camp, and he was deemed by Mullen himself as the best JC guard in the nation.

At that point, Wright State coach Billy Donlon and his staff, though still nurturing that relationship, felt it was best to move on to other targets.

“Everyone in this business respects Jerry Mullen,” Donlon said of the longtime JC coach. “When that happened, his recruitment skyrocketed.

“We thought we were out of it. We thought it was over.”

Not quite.

Thomasson verbally committed to Oklahoma State one month after the camp. But going into his sophomore year at State Fair, during which he would average 18 points, six assists and four rebounds while earning JC All-American honors, he began to have second thoughts and backed out of his pledge.

“I wanted to go bigger (than Wright State) — not necessarily that bigger is better, but I just felt I could compete at a higher level and I wanted to embrace that role because of all work I put in,” he said.

“But as time went on, I felt their loyalty wasn’t all the way there like Wright State’s was. When I de-committed, there wasn’t any hard feelings toward Oklahoma State. I just felt like that wasn’t the best fit for me in that moment.”

He began to think of his girlfriend, Ladresha Spear, and their young son, Joseph Thomasson III. And he felt the tug of wanting to be around his mother, Autumn Bryant, whom he called his biggest supporter.

He also remembered the Wright State coaches had his best interests at heart even when he was a marginal recruit at Thurgood Marshall.

“I felt like I wanted to come back home. I wanted to play a part of my son’s life. And I had a family who embraced me,” he said.

There was just one glitch: The Raiders’ lone scholarship still open in that class was being reserved for a big man.

Donlon, though, didn’t waste any time changing his priorities.

“If he was going to be available, he was too good to turn down,” Donlon said.

Thomasson has not disappointed. He was the team’s second-leading scorer as a junior last year with a 10.0 average. The 6-foor-4 leaper also was first in total minutes played (31.1 per game) and assists (3.0) and second in rebounds (5.5) and steals (1.0).

“He’s a talented guy,” Donlon said. “You hear in baseball about a five-tool player. He’s pretty close to that offensively, of having all the tools.

“He can make a 3 — you have to guard him. He can drive it to the rim. He can get fouled and make free throws. He’s got good vision. … He’s a bigger guard, so he can see over people. And he tries to guard. His size and length can bother you.”

The only facet on offense he still lacks is the pull-up jumper, but Donlon is confident the mid-range game will come around this season.

He also has no doubts about Thomasson being on the road to success once he leaves the Raiders.

He’s on schedule to graduate in May with a degree in Organizational Leadership. He’s also the attentive father of a budding family. His son is now 4, and Thomasson and Spear, who have been together since they were sophomores at Thurgood Marshall, have a 5-month-old daughter, Aundrea.

“There’s nothing in this world you can do that’s more significant or more important than to be a parent, and Joe is outstanding at it,” Donlon said.

“He’s really done an incredible job. If I was his age, I don’t think I would have been ready to handle it as well as he is. I think our community should be really proud of that.

“I’m excited for the season I think he’s going to have, but I’m more excited about the future for his life.”

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