- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 22, 2004

WACO, Texas — Harvey Thomas decided to stay this time, even if he had every reason to bolt Baylor.

Thomas, a junior who began his career at Georgetown, frequently spent time at the apartment of Bears teammates Patrick Dennehy and Carlton Dotson. Dennehy was shot and killed in June. Dotson has been charged with murder and is in a Texas prison awaiting trial.

Dennehy was killed with a gun Dotson said he and Dennehy needed to protect themselves from a teammate who had threatened them.

During the early stages of the murder investigation, Thomas was suspected of being the player who made the threats, but an investigation never turned up any connection.

“I was watching the news, trying to keep up on everything,” Thomas said. “I was accused of a lot of things I never did. I didn’t know what was going. I was thinking, ‘How did I get into this?’ I just came down here to play basketball and go to school.”

It was another twist in a tumultuous career. After attending five high schools, the Fredericksburg, Va., native fulfilled a dream by playing at Georgetown. The blue-chip recruit left the Hilltop after one season, claiming he had issues with coach Craig Esherick about playing time.

Thomas, a 6-foot-8 small forward, went to Daytona Beach (Fla.) Community College, then attended Northeastern Oklahoma A&M; last season. After earning his associate’s degree, he signed to play for coach Dave Bliss at Baylor.

Soon after arriving in Waco, he was caught in the turmoil.

“People had an image of Harvey Thomas without knowing me,” Thomas said. “I was just a ‘bad guy’ because I was the new guy in town. But people who know me know that’s not true.”

Tired of “ripping and running,” Thomas rode out the storm, which included the forced resignation of Bliss after an investigation found the coach had paid players and committed other violations.

Thomas now is a bright spot on a bad team. The three top players from last season transferred, and each now is a major contributor on a top-25 team. For his part, Harvey finally is getting his chance to shine, despite the gloomy backdrop.

“I am in a good situation now where I can showcase my talents,” said Thomas, who is averaging 15.6 points and 5.6 rebounds. “It wasn’t a situation I couldn’t handle. I still had a goal. If I was going to accomplish that goal, there would be a time in life where I would have to say, ‘This is what I have to do. This is what I chose to do.’ I chose to come down here. Just because things aren’t going well right now doesn’t mean I have to run away.”

After coach Scott Drew arrived to salvage the program, Thomas was declared ineligible when it was found previous coaches had paid for a summer class. Thomas was held out of the first eight games this season before the NCAA reinstated him.

“I was just doing what my coaches told me,” said Thomas, who repays the school about $60 a month for the class. “I wanted to do the right thing. Unfortunately, sometimes you do the right thing and it’s the wrong thing. The lesson is not to trust everyone and to ask a lot of questions.”

Thomas realizes staying in Waco means he probably won’t experience the NCAA tournament. Baylor is ineligible this season and could be banned by the NCAA next season, even if the program turns around. Harvey is OK with whatever the future holds and has bigger designs on playing in the NBA. Besides, he is finally enjoying life on and off the court.

“I may never make a postseason tournament,” Thomas said. “There is one thing I do know: At the end of my career, people will know Harvey Thomas.”

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