That goal was officially achieved on Sunday.
Thomas, a 2014 Norwalk graduate, scored four points with three rebounds and three steals and helped the Panthers (24-10) to a 74-61 win over Texas-Arlington in the Sun Belt Conference tournament championship game at Lakefront Arena in New Orleans.
The win gave Georgia State an automatic bid to the ‘Big Dance,’ where it will face a team Thomas knows well: No. 8-ranked Cincinnati.
The Panthers are the No. 15 seed in the South Region, while the American Athletic Conference champion Bearcats (30-4) are the No. 2 seed. The game will be played at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. on Friday. Tip-off time is to be determined later Sunday night.
This will be GSU’s second NCAA tournament appearance in a four-year span, as it stunned Baylor on a buzzer-beater in the first round in 2015 when Thomas sat out the season as a redshirt.
In Sunday’s title game, Thomas was 2-of-4 shooting in 34 minutes, and the Panthers were a plus-7 in efficiency with him on the floor.
Thomas has started in 29 of the team’s 34 games, averaging 10.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.0 steals in 31.6 minutes per game.
At Norwalk, Thomas was the only player in program history to be a three-time Northwest district selection and first-team All-Ohioan (2013-14).
He is one of six players in Norwalk history to be voted a three-time all-league selection, and is second all-time in career points (1,352) and first in single-season points (561, 2014). Also top 10 in single-season and career rebounds at Norwalk, Thomas helped the Truckers to their greatest stretch in program and area history.
During his four seasons at Norwalk, the Truckers won four Northern Ohio League titles, two district championships and had a 57-game regular season win streak (ninth-longest in Ohio).
That culminated in the 2013-14 Division II state championship, with Thomas scoring 18 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in a 65-58 win over Columbus Watterson in the state title game. He averaged 18.7 points and 9.0 rebounds in 30 games for the Truckers that season.