Tilghman's Thomas set to join Racer hoops

ELLEN O'NAN | Sun file photo

Paducah Tilghman's Rodriguez Thomas will be playing for Murray State men's basketball beginning this fall, operating as the team's walk-on for the foreseeable future.

A new adventure awaits for Paducah Tilghman's Rodriguez Thomas.

The former Blue Tornado point guard -- who posted more than 1,600 points and shot 48.3 percent from the floor in his prep career -- is joining the Murray State men's basketball program this fall, where he'll walk on as the Racers 14th player on the roster.

Thomas had originally committed to the UT Martin Skyhawks after the 2019 First Region Tournament, where he would've been an academic walk-on for head coach Anthony Stewart and his staff.

But don't get this twisted. This isn't some recruiting coup within the Ohio Valley Conference.

No, Thomas ... instead ... decided he and his family needed to explore academic opportunities within the state of Kentucky for clear-cut financial reasons -- particularly through the relief of in-state tuition costs, awarded KEES money and a bevy of personal academic scholarships written to his name.

Tack on the fact that his father and former basketball coach, Roderick, played two seasons at Murray State (2000-01, 2001-02) under Tyvester Anderson (after transferring from Alabama Southern Community College; now Coastal Alabama) ... where he backed up the likes of Isaac Spencer and James Singleton ... and it's a pretty clear scenario.

Thomas wanted familiarity. Thomas wanted a challenge. Thomas wanted to play more basketball.

Thomas wanted to be a Racer.

"I'm just very excited for this opportunity," he said. "And not only for the experience I'll gain in a great college, but also with the rich tradition of Murray State basketball."

Expected to major in health and physical education, Thomas hopes to be at Murray State for a full four years -- particularly from an academic standpoint. He's aware of the rigors required when trying to balance the demands of a college basketball player and a student, and notes he's had several conversations with MSU head coach Matt McMahon -- himself a former walk-on at Appalachian State -- about what it's going to take to contribute both on and off the court.

"Yes, (McMahon) and I have had several conversations about 'is this the right decision for me?'" Thomas added.

"I've just got to be a great teammate. A hard worker. Maybe the hardest worker, since I'm a walk-on. I've got to be somebody they can trust, and someone of high character both on and off the court. And if I'm not at practice, I've got to be making sure I'm doing the right things academically. I've got to be positive. Energetic."

Thomas is also very cognizant of the established roster -- which includes a loaded corps of guards in Tevin Brown, Brion Whitley, Jaiveon Eaves, DaQuan Smith, Noah Kamba, Chico Carter and Jason Holliday, and a front court rotation of Darnell Cowart, Anthony Smith, KJ Williams, Devin Gilmore, Demond Robinson and Matthew Smith.

In fact, he's already briefly met M. Smith and Carter -- having played against them in several instances on the travel circuit when the twosome played for Team Charlotte.

But this chance to go out and compete with the back-to-back defending OVC champs, while sticking even closer to home with family, was a slam dunk decision.

"We know the roster is stacked," added Roderick.

"It's going to be really, really tough to get minutes. But that was never the intent. We're really excited about this opportunity, and the rich tradition Murray State brings. Rodriguez has always been of high character and leadership. Doing the right things.

"That's what this is about."

Rodriguez Thomas Career Numbers

(*denotes All-Purchase Team selection)

Year GP PPG FG% 3PTM-A 3PT% FTM-A FT% RPG

*2018-19 28 15.2 53.8 60-139 43.2 100-117 85.5 4.3

2017-18 29 12.4 48.3 69-155 44.5 69-80 86.2 3.3

*2016-17 30 13.8 52.5 50-123 40.7 108-129 83.7 2.8

2015-16 32 6.8 44.5 33-82 40.2 55-74 74.3 1.8

2014-15 27 5.4 42.5 20-69 29.0 24-29 82.8 1.5

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