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Sports Center

Dec 5, 2011 3:23 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Thomas Returning To Bee Hive With Center Moriches

Dec 5, 2011 4:11 PM

When the Bridgehampton boys basketball team opens its gymnasium doors to Center Moriches on December 13, a little bit more than a non-league victory will be at stake.

The game will be a homecoming for first-year Center Moriches coach Nick Thomas, who was the starting point guard for the Killer Bees during his high school career. Thomas took over the head coaching position for the Red Devils this year after former coach Jon Ward-Adams decided to step down. Thomas was the junior varsity coach at Center Moriches for four years, and earned JV Coach of the Year honors last season before assuming the varsity position. On December 13, he’ll get his first chance to match wits with his former coach, Carl Johnson.

Thomas played for Johnson on the great Killer Bee teams of the 1990s, and was the team’s starting point guard during his four years on the varsity squad. In 1996, as a senior, Thomas helped lead the Killer Bees to the first of three consecutive New York State Class D Championships, the first state title the school had won since 1986. Thomas averaged 12 points and 12 assists per game in his final season in a Killer Bees uniform. Thomas went on to play collegiate basketball at NYU, where he continued his role as a point guard and captain. During his tenure at NYU, Thomas made the NCAA Division III tournament team and was a two-time defensive player of the year in the United Athletic Association. Thomas graduated from NYU with a double major in marketing and accounting and a minor in communications, and now works as the business manager at the Southampton Press.

Basketball continues to be Thomas’s life passion—even though his playing days are over—and he’s eagerly anticipating his first matchup with his former coach.

“I’m excited,” Thomas said last week about the impending matchup. “I’m looking forward to returning to where it all started for me.”

With a smile, he added: “I’m planning on picking up right where I left off, on a winning note.”

Winning was an almost daily occurrence for the Killer Bees during Thomas’s tenure on the team. During his freshman year, the 1992/93 season, the Bees won the county title, and after failing to defend their title the following year, they won the counties again in the 94/95 season, while also taking the county B-C-D title. That year, the Bees fell one game short of a trip to the state tournament. Thomas and his teammates reached the promised land in 1996 and made the most of it, beating West Canada Valley, 51-37, to take home the state championship. That Bridgehampton team featured several great players in addition to Thomas, including Maurice Manning, who had a breakout year as a sophomore that season along with Terrell Hopson, Nathaniel Dent, Fred Welch, Kareem Coffey, Ronnie White and B.J. Walker. Javon Harding, another star, was also on the team, although he was unable to play at states due to an injury.

Thomas was the quarterback of that formidable lineup on the floor, but Johnson was their leader on the sidelines. Thomas said he learned a lot from Johnson and had a good relationship with him, despite his coach’s high expectations for him.

“Coach, being a point guard, was always hard on his point guards,” Thomas said. “But I always could take it.”

Thomas said that Johnson stressed mental toughness and expected his players to always bring their best effort in that aspect of the game.

Johnson said that having Thomas on the floor was like having a second coach. He praised his leadership skills and said he thinks Thomas will have plenty of success at Center Moriches.

“I’m very glad they gave him an opportunity because I think he’s going to be a great varsity coach,” Johnson said. “I always thought he was going to be a coach. He has strong leadership qualities that he showed every day in practice. He was my coach on the court and off the court when it came to getting the team together and keeping them in the right direction. It was pretty much easy for me to coach him because I knew he was going to coach the other kids.”

Johnson said Thomas continually proved those leadership qualities, but perhaps most notably when it mattered most. Johnson recalled the state championship game in 1996—the Killer Bees were watching their lead shrink as West Canada Valley continued to foul them and the Bees were failing to make their free throw attempts. At that point, Johnson said, Thomas demanded the ball, even though he wasn’t the team’s best free throw shooter.

“Nick wanted the ball at crunch time, he wanted to be on the free throw line,” Johnson said. “He said, ‘I’m keeping the ball,’ and I said, ‘OK,’ and he just kept hitting his free throw shots. That showed me that this kid is ready. He had ice in his veins.”

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Good luck to Nick-a class act.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Dec 7, 11 6:28 AM
... great story - can't wait to see him coach.
By William Rodney (558), southampton on Dec 8, 11 1:51 PM
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