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Rod Thomas takes Male Racer of the Year award

Willard E. Jones
Jones Photography

Murray State men’s basketball player Rod Thomas received the Male Athlete Racer of the Year earlier this week as part of the athletic department’s annual Dunker Awards ceremony.

The award is given each year to a male and female athlete that encompasses Racer Athletics Core Values — including character, integrity, knowledge, stewardship, and competitive excellence — in and out of their sports.

Softball player Jordan Childress and women’s basketball player Macey Turley tied for the Female Athlete Racer of the Year award.

Courtesy of Rod Thomas

Thomas said getting the honor was a surreal experience.

“The love and support that I have from the Murray State community. Sometimes it gets overwhelming. That is just a blessing,” Thomas said. “Also, it's an award to my coaches and teammates for allowing me to be me and allowing my light to shine. It is just as much my coaches and teammates award as it is mine.”

MSU men’s basketball coach Steve Prohm had high praises for the senior basketball player.

"We are very proud of Rod and he’s very deserving of the award,” Steve Prohm said. “Rod was a special teammate in that he always had a positive impact in our program, on campus and in the community. I am proud to have had the opportunity to coach him.”

Thomas, a 21-year-old Paducah native, has continued his family’s Murray State athletics legacy.

His father, Rod Thomas Sr., played for the Racers for two seasons (2000-02) for Coach Tevester Anderson. His sister, Destiny Thomas, is committed to play basketball at Murray State and will be joining the women’s basketball program this upcoming season. . His mother, Dianndria Thomas, also graduated from MSU.

His love for the game of basketball started at the age of 3 years old. Thomas recalled he “has always had the ball in his hands.”

During his time as an athlete at Murray State, Thomas was part of two Ohio Valley Conference regular season championships in 2020 and 2022, the latter of which advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2022. He has also received three OVC Medal of honors for maintaining a 4.0 GPA.

Thomas said has been nothing but grateful for his time on campus.

“It was a great experience. Just the support and love that I got from the community was surreal. My teammates and coaches took very good care of me and I really have no complaints as far as an overall great experience.”

While his college career officially came to an end this past season as a player, he's now turning the page to a career as a college coach.

Willard E. Jones
Jones Photography

Thomas has accepted a position at Louisiana State University as one of the men’s basketball graduate assistants, and will join the team’s staff this upcoming season. He will be under current LSU head coach Matt McMahon, who previously was Murray State’s head coach from 2015 to 2022. He will also be joining his former assistant coaches Casey Long, Tim Kaine, Ronrico White and Mike Chapman.

Thomas, who played for McMahon for three out of his four years at Murray State, said the role at LSU was “an opportunity that he couldn't pass up.”

During his freshman year in high school, Thomas began coaching and training young athletes whether that be one on one training or group training. His family runs a business called Thomas Elite where the basketball-driven family leads group training sessions, working with young kids on their player development and their skill work to improve their game.

Thomas hopes his role at LSU will launch his collegiate coaching career, wherever that may take him.

“So kind of when I was picking my major, I didn't know [if] I wanted to teach or go into college coaching. And then I think somewhere between my sophomore and junior year, I think I realized I was leaning more towards the coaching route,” Thomas said. “So I kind of knew I always wanted to coach, because my dad is a coach. So I feel like it's kind of in my blood to coach and not only coach but to just lead.”

Morgan Puckett is a sophomore from Olney, Illinois, majoring in public relations with a minor in criminal justice and political science at Murray State University.
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