Unable to play basketball her senior year, Gaby Thomas still turned her high school and AAU success into a full-ride scholarship for college.
On Wednesday, the former Fort Edward standout signed to play basketball at Bluefield State College, a Division II program in West Virginia.
“I didn’t know if that was going to happen with COVID and everything,” said Thomas, a 5-foot-9 combo guard who was recruited to play the point for the Big Blue. “Other than AAU this year, I haven’t played basketball since last March.”
The coronavirus pandemic shut down sports across the state less than a week after Fort Edward — coached by Gaby’s father, Jason Thomas — captured a Section II girls basketball title. A first-team all-state selection, Gaby Thomas was the Class D tournament and Adirondack League MVP.
When Fort Edward’s school budget was voted down last year, Gaby Thomas transferred to Queensbury, where her family had moved the previous year, with the hope of playing basketball for the Spartans as a senior.
But basketball at Queensbury never happened over the winter, as the school district did not approve playing “high-risk” sports like basketball and wrestling. Queensbury was one of the only local schools to not play after the state gave the green light in February.
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“It definitely put a stinger in my senior year,” said Thomas, who has been playing AAU basketball for Team Fredette. “It was difficult.”
She took her official visit to Bluefield State three weeks ago and immediately liked the small campus near the border of West Virginia and Virginia.
“I wasn’t sure about it, I had never heard of it, but once we took a visit, I loved it,” said Thomas, who also drew interest from LeMoyne, Gannon, Emmanuel, Montreat, Hartwick and SUNY New Paltz
“We asked her, ‘Are you sure you want to go 10 hours away for school?’” Jason Thomas said. “When they want her to go there for free, it’s hard to turn it down. She wanted to go south anyway. She liked the coach, she liked the college. We fell in love with it.”
Both Gaby and her father said women’s basketball coach Ryan Bailey was very frank with her.
“He was straightforward with her — there’s an expectation that she’s going to produce,” Jason Thomas said. “He laid out their entire day for her. It’s Division II — it’s a lot. They decide your day, when it starts and when it ends.”
“They have a senior point guard, but he made it really clear, ‘You’re my backup, you’re going to get minutes as a freshman,’” Gaby Thomas said. “That had me pumped.”
Thomas plans to major in business, with an eye toward sports management.
“I’m excited for it, but obviously I’m nervous, too,” she said. “It’s definitely a whole different level of basketball.”
Follow Pete Tobey on Twitter @PTobeyPSVarsity.