Matt Thomas at one time or another has been a D2 state champion for Onalaska basketball, a four-year player for Iowa State hoops, a champion in the Spanish professional league, and an NBA player. On Monday, he got to be "Coach Thomas" for about 50 aspiring basketball players in the local community.
The new Toronto Raptor Thomas hosted day one of the third annual Matt Thomas Basketball Camp at Eagle Bluff Elementary, putting an emphasis on ball handling and shooting drills.
Thomas says he loves coming back home to host a skills camp for kids who were just like him when he was young.
"It's a small token of my appreciation to a community that have done well by me, my family. They were so good to us growing up, and it's my small way of being able to give back."
"His experience and working hard, not being an outstanding God-given talent. He just works extremely hard," camper and Tomah freshman Brady Plueger said.
Thomas won a championship with Valencia and came off a season of shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor before the Raptors reached out to sign him. When asked if he felt a return to the NBA could happen after his success in Europe, Thomas said it was definitely on his mind.
"I never banked on anything happening," he said. "Both years, my first year Spain and then this last year too, talks with my agent--he was always saying, 'Keep doing your thing. There are teams contacting me. A lot of teams are showing interest. We're going to wait for the right situation.' The Raptors were one of those teams--I was supposed to play summer league with them straight out of college and made a last-minute switch to the Lakers. Their front office has kind of been on me ever since then, just keeping an eye on me.
"I think if you work hard, no matter what you set your mind to, I think you can accomplish it with hard work and just treating people with respect, and treating people the right way. I feel like good things happen to good people, so that would be my word of advice to a lot of these kids."
The camp continues Tuesday at Eagle Bluff.
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