Westchester, New York native Torey Thomas is more than just a basketball player. He is a brand! After leading Holy Cross to an NCAA appearance in 2007 he has been playing basketball professionally overseas, sharpening his skills and stacking accolades as a premiere point guard. When he's not terrorizing opposing teams Torey manages his foundation, the New York Blaze Athletic Club, which operates out of his hometown White Plains, NY. The opportunity he provides for the youth basketball players of New York are one he is very passionate about and is shows at his annual NY Blaze tournament every summer where dozens of teams come out and showcase the city's best young players. I've known Torey for nearly 10 years and its easy to see why he's the hometown hero. His humbleness, generosity and passion for the game are all examples of why you can't walk the streets of White Plains without seeing someone rocking a GoTorey tee shirt. Here's is a peak into the life or Mr. Thomas; a baller, a philanthropist, a friend and a role model. Enjoy!
Q: What was your motivation to become a professional athlete?
A: My motivation was people doubting me and not believing in my abilities. I remember coaches overlooking me because I was small and saying it was going to be tough to even play division-I. After overcoming that the transition was easy because I've carried myself like a professional since I was 14.
What drives you to be a better player?
I always wanted to be the best. It comes from within. I always want to be on my A-game and the only way you can do that is through constant work.
What are some of the obstacles you faced on your journey to playing professional basketball?
I faced many obstacles. The first was getting an agent I could trust. An agent is very important because they can help open doors for you. Another obstacle was getting in the best situation where where I would play and could play well. You have to be ready for anything that comes your way when your on this journey.
How do you spend your time off the court while your overseas?
I watch a lot of movies. Martin is my favorite TV series. I also read and play video games on my Ipad and like to go out and explore each city.
What is the hardest part about playing basketball in foreign countries?
The hardest part is being away from home for 9-10 months out the year. Adjusting to the language barrier and cultural differences can be difficult at first too. The first time I came to Europe was the toughest for me. I landed in Hungary for only 2 days before I went to Turkey and adjusting to the language and driving was hard.
How did the stigma of the NYC guard affect you as a player?
The perception that NYC guards can't shoot is a big one! But I worked tremendously on my shot and I am now a respected shooter. To become a better shooter I had to change a few mechanics while shooting over 500 shots a day..consistently.
Who is the best player you ever played with? Against?
When I was 16 I played at Rucker Park with Steve Francis, who was in the NBA at the time, and he was the best player. It was an amazing experience and my first time first playing out there. The best player I played against was Scottie Pippen in the 2007 Swedish league. It was an unbelievable experience.
Who were your mentors and role models when you were coming up?
I looked up to Rashemel Jones, Sharon Sinvilcin, Early Johnson and teammates Kyle Jones, Larry Warren and Kareem Washington. These are all guys I watched when I was headed to high school.
If you could play for any coach and with any player in the NBA, who would they be?
I would want to play for Doc Rivers because he seems to be a players' coach. I would want to play with LeBron James simply because he's the best all-around player in the league today.
Name your all-time starting 5 of the NBA?
My starting 5 would be Isaiah Thomas, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Bill Russell.
What are the best basketball shoes you ever played in?
Ironically my favorite sneakers are the 1996 Grant Hill's by Fila.
Switching gears, what's your greatest basketball accomplishment?
Winning the Patriot League Championship in 2007 was my greatest accomplishment because I always wanted to go to the NCAA Championship. By winning that championship we were rewarded the automatic bid.
What does basketball mean to you?
Basketball means everything to me! Its life, love and compassion. I believe it parallels how I live my life everyday.
If you could have any profession besides basketball, what would it be?
If I wasn't hooping I would want to be a Lawyer or Sports Psychologist.
Can you explain your non-profit organization, the New York Blaze, and its purpose?
NY Blaze is a basketball program for youths, ages 6-19, who aspire to play basketball and learn life skills. Our motto is "Life Skills Through Sports". The organization is open to any athlete who wants to be part of a family oriented atmosphere.
We thank Torey for his willingness to participate and wish him the best this season and those to come. To follow Torey's journey and success, visit his site at www.gotorey.com. And for more information of his foundation go to www.newyorkblaze.com.