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Erika Thomas' Road to GCU, Basketball and a Graduate Degree

Erika (left) with sister Krystal, GCU assistant coach and Washington Mystics' player.
March 30, 2017

By Jessika Long

STORRS, Conn. - 
Most of the UConn Athletics community knows Erika Thomas as the 6’3’’ right side hitter that played volleyball in Storrs throughout her four-year college career. 

What it might not know is that after her graduation from the University last May, Thomas went on to graduate school at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Ariz. where she played basketball as a fifth-year athlete.

Playing volleyball in Connecticut and basketball in Arizona was extremely different for a number of reasons; however, Thomas believes that the biggest changes came from the mental aspect of switching sports and schools.

In comparing the two schools Thomas said, “Storrs is UConn…UConn is Storrs. The city and school are very much one in the same.  However, with GCU it was different.  GCU is in Phoenix, but that is not the only thing the city has to offer.  It’s weird, at first, coming to GCU and realizing people actually do more than just go to school and hangout on campus!” 

Thomas also explained how the transition to basketball was difficult and the most challenging part of her change. She had not played since earning a varsity letter in basketball at The First Academy, prior to attending UConn.

“Getting my basketball IQ back was challenging especially when I was competing against girls who had been playing D1 basketball for multiple years and were obviously going to be smarter than me when it comes to the sport,” said Thomas.  “However, I knew that I had an advantage physically.  Therefore, I would use my athleticism and height to compensate for my lack of experience.”


 

 

Thomas’ height and athletic ability definitely became a great asset to the team.  In fact, Thomas says that one of her favorite games this season was when she almost set the school record for most rebounds in a game.

Thomas was a two-time team captain at UConn and AAC All-Second Team member in her senior year, before going on to average 4.5 rebounds per game and holding a team-high field goal percentage of 54.5-percent in 11 games at Grand Canyon.

The Antelopes went 15-12 this past season in the Western Athletic Conference, finishing the year having won three of its last five games with Thomas coming off the bench.

Along with the exciting opportunity to live on the other side of the country and play an entirely different sport, Thomas also had the unique experience of having her older sister and current Washington Mystics player, Krystal Thomas, as her assistant coach.

“Having my sister as my coach was one of the coolest experiences I will ever get to have.  She knew and understood me in ways that other coaches did not; she knew when and how to push me, but at the end of the day I always had my sister when that final whistle blew,” said Thomas.

Thomas and her team finished their season a few weeks ago and she has officially ended her long and successful career as a two-sport Division-1 athlete.

When asked what she plans to do next, Thomas responded, “My plan next is to take some time for myself.  Sports have always determined where I go in my life and for once that does not have to be the case.  I would love to play professional volleyball in the future, but for the next few months I am going to focus on finishing my masters and enjoying my summer.”

Thomas is currently still living in Phoenix where she plans to stay for a while and focus on receiving her master’s degree in business administration.

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