CROTHERSVILLE

Crothersville freshman Josh Thomas hates to lose.

Whether it’s a shooting drill, or a live-game situation, Thomas leaves everything on the hardwood in an effort to come out on top.

By the end of practice, you won’t find a jersey saturated with more sweat on another vest.

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Thomas’ name has traveled quickly around the Southern Athletic Conference, with the first-year varsity player making a name for himself just five games into the 2016-17 season.

The 6-2 shooting guard is averaging 22 points and nine rebounds per game this season.

In the second game of his career, Thomas dropped 34 points against Medora before following up with 32 the next day at Shoals.

“I thought (coming into the season) I would do pretty well my freshman year,” Thomas said. “I’m only going to get better and improve by my senior year. Varsity is a lot more difficult to get the ball up the court compared to middle school. It has been a big change.”

While the Tigers are glad to have him, Thomas — who grew up in the Crothersville school system — almost chose to attend Scottsburg High School before the start of the school year.

“When he first said he was coming back, it was almost like when you see a kid sign to your favorite college,” Tigers coach Greg Kilgore said. “Josh called me earlier in the summer and asked if he could come back to Crothersville. He hadn’t enrolled as a freshman anywhere yet, so it was OK for him. My first question for him was what changed his mind. He said he would miss some of his teammates and classmates since he’d been here for eight years of school already.”

Thomas said playing at Crothersville seemed like the right fit.

“The community is great here,” he said. “I’ve been here since kindergarten. I felt like I shouldn’t leave.”

Kilgore, who coached junior varsity for eight years before taking over the varsity position for the 2012-13 season, said he has never had a young talent like Thomas before.

“(Opposing coaches) have all said he’s a special kind of player,” Kilgore said. “He’s hard to prepare for and hard to defend. His energy makes him that special player. He plays a lot of basketball. He’s one of those kids you see on a Sunday afternoon shooting — maybe by himself — for two or three hours.

“There are so many different outreaches for kids these days, and Josh just loves the game so much, he concerns himself with it more than other outlets he could have.”

Thomas currently leads Jackson County with 110 points scored on the season.

He’s shooting 58 percent from two-point range and 38 percent from the field on 101 total shots. He’s 73 percent from the free throw line on 33 shots.

“He does a good job with shot fakes to create shots and get to the foul line and to the rim,” Kilgore said. “If his 3s ever start falling in games, I think he could be around a 30-point-per-game scorer.”

While Thomas’ numbers are high, he doesn’t particularly look to shoot first.

“I try to help out the team and get them involved,” Thomas said. “I want to be an all-around player. We do a lot of plays, but I don’t think they’re mostly through me. We try to work the ball around.”

While his scoring ability has taken notice, Thomas has also pulled down 45 total rebounds while accumulating 18 steals and two blocks.

“A lot of his scoring feeds off his defense,” Kilgore said. “When you look at the numbers a little deeper, he’s averaging a good number of rebounds. Usually, three or four of those are offensive.”

The Tigers (1-4) have played more competitively this season, with three of their losses coming to 10 points or less with almost an entirely new starting five.

Kilgore said that he wasn’t sure how Thomas’ teammates would respond to the freshman’s role coming in.

So far, no problems have arisen with Thomas at the helm.

“One thing I was a little bit worried about coming into the season was how the seniors and juniors would buy into having a freshman as our leading scorer,” Kilgore said. “I think that a lot of upperclassmen would think that they’ve paid their dues and deserve to fill that role. We haven’t faced any issues like that at all. The kids seem more than willing to share the ball with Josh and almost promote the fact that he’s our best player.

“He’s the epitome of a good teammate. He works harder in practice than anyone. I think that some of the other kids are working harder just because he’s now a part of the program. Hopefully, that doesn’t only spill over to the upperclassmen but down to the younger kids, as well.”

With time to develop his game, Kilgore looks forward to how Thomas develops on and off the court.

“By the end of this season, I want him to be a more vocal leader,” Kilgore said. “I’ve tried to push that on him, but the thing right now is, ‘Coach, these older guys won’t listen to me.’ He’s a leader by example, but I think the kids will listen to him because he has the knowledge and the drive to be that kind of leader. They know he can help get us where we want to be this year and the next two to three years. I’m really excited to coach him and seeing where he can get as a player and student.”

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Jordan Morey is sports editor at The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at jmorey@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.