October 25th, 2017
As the Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic nears, I thought it would be a perfect time to talk about some of my favorite college basketball memories as a player and as a viewer.
My favorite college basketball memory as a player at Birmingham-Southern College was most definitely winning the Southern Athletic Association conference championship and going to the NCAA Division III Tournament. My entire junior season ranks as one of my favorite years of basketball to date. It started out very rough as we began our season winning only once in seven games. Our squad never lost hope, in fact the tough times seemed to galvanize us as a team as we would later on rattle off 19 straight victories. This streak ranked among the longest winning streaks in all divisions of college basketball. My parents were the true warriors that season though as they drove 17 hours from New York to Birmingham to watch me win a conference championship. They then returned to New York to watch my older brother, Billy coach his prep school team in a playoff game. Then the next weekend they drove another 15 hours to Atlanta to watch me play in the NCAA Tournament. They have been and continue to be unbelievable in how supportive they are! My Uncle Johnny, also flew in from Texas to enjoy the three days of basketball for the conference championship. And my brother surprised me by flying to Atlanta to see me play in the NCAA Tournament! All in all that year was a tremendous year for Birmingham-Southern Basketball, as well as the Thom family.
As an enormous fan of college basketball, I have had some amazing memories watching games live. There are two that stand out to me the most. The first memory takes me back to Raleigh, North Carolina where I went to the day of games for the first round of the NCAA Tournament. I was really only there to watch the (10) Davidson take on the (7) Gonzaga. My brother at the time was a freshman manager for Davidson Basketball and being in the third row for that game was incredible. That was the game Steph Curry put up 30 points on the Zags and started the run to the Elite 8. Even the post game at the hotel where I was able to talk to all the Davidson players was an absolute treat.
Another memory that is at the top of my basketball experiences, is a tradition that my father began with myself and my brother. He would rotate every year who he would take with him to the Final Four. So my brother would go one year and then I would the next, and we would rotate back and forth. The first time I went to the Final Four though was in 1999 when Duke and Connecticut were in the National Championship. That year my entire family went to the Final Four in Tampa. We made it a family trip because my father coached Elton Brand (the star center for Duke and 1st pick of the 1999 NBA Draft) and he had become a friend of the family. That Final Four will always be a memory because it was my first. The next one I went to was in 2001. Again Duke was in that NCAA Tournament and at the time I was a huge Duke fan. I was able to see the game when Duke came back against Maryland in the Final Four in Minneapolis. One of the best parts of that Final Four though wasn’t even the game but when I was able to watch Maryland’s closed practice and see and meet players like Steve Blake and Juan Dixon.
I have had some incredible viewing and playing memories in college basketball and am so blessed to have such amazing experiences and am thankful for such a family to give me these opportunities.