HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — When Dan D’Antoni was introduced in April as Marshall’s new men’s basketball coach, guard Chris Thomas was among those in attendance, excited for what the future might hold for him and the Thundering Herd.
“I think he’s going to be a great coach for us,” Thomas said that day. “I think he’s going to be good for us. I think we’re going to win a couple more games and I can’t wait for next season.”
Thomas will not be part of the Herd’s future. The university announced Tuesday that the rising junior had been dismissed from the Herd for violation of team rules.
Thomas’ exit is another step on what has been a winding path for the former blue-chip recruit. Marshall picked up Thomas from Chipola College, a junior college in Marianna, Fla. Before that, the Denver native had attended Princeton Day Academy in Maryland and had planned to transfer to Westwind Prep in Arizona before changing course and attending South Kent School in Connecticut. He then transferred to Chipola.
While in Florida, he was arrested on charges of operating an unregistered vehicle and driving without a valid license. He was given conditional release and placed in a pretrial intervention program, but tested positive for marijuana while in that program and was suspended from the team for the 2013 junior college state tournament. At one point, Rivals.com rated Thomas it’s top shooting guard recruit.
When he arrived last year in Huntington, he said he was ready to fly straight and appreciated the faith former Herd coach Tom Herrion put in him.
“I’m very happy to get back on the floor,” he said last September. “I don’t want to go through what I went through anymore. I’m just ready to be a man with the situation. It’s going great right now.”
Thomas immediately became a key contributor, his role growing even more after Elijah Pittman was suspended nine games into the 2013-14 season. Thomas’ breakout game came in a November contest Pittman started, but didn’t finish. After Pittman was ejected five minutes into a game against Western Kentucky, Thomas exploded for 27 points to lead the Herd over the Hilltoppers, 74-64.
Thomas finished third on the Thundering Herd last season in scoring, averaging 12.7 points per game, a tenth of a point behind Ryan Taylor. He also averaged 4.0 rebounds and led the team in steals (38) while finishing second in assists (58) behind Kareem Canty. He also joins Canty on the way out of Huntington. Canty was granted his scholarship release this spring and will transfer to Auburn.
With Thomas’ dismissal, new Herd coach Dan D’Antoni will be without two of last season’s top three scorers – three of four if you count Pittman. Pittman averaged 21.4 points in those nine games, while Canty averaged 16.3 points.
Since the end of the 2012-13 season, Marshall has seen seven players transfer, get suspended or get dismissed. In 2013, guard Chris Martin transferred to Mount St. Marys, forward Jamir Hanner transferred to Buffalo and guard D.D. Scarver transferred to Texas Southern.
Guard DeAndre Kane was dismissed from the roster in 2013, graduated from Marshall and transferred to Iowa State, where he was named the 2014 Big 12 newcomer of the year. The 2013-14 season and its aftermath brought Pittman’s suspension, Canty’s transfer and Thomas’ dismissal. The Herd also lost little-used center Yous Mbao to graduation.
Of the 2,385 points the Herd scored last season, 1,151 of them — or more than 48 percent — were scored by Pittman, Canty and Thomas.
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.