Van Alstyne senior student athlete Maegan Thomas is no stranger to overcoming adversity. The six foot, two inch Lady Panther varsity center suffered a herniated disk in the L4 and L5 vertebrae of her back during the 2016-2017 basketball season. It was a debilitating injury that took her off the court and quickly shortened her sophomore season, but Thomas refused to let the injury keep her down, and made a comeback the following year — receiving second-team All-District honors after a restricted, yet productive 2017-2018 season.
Thomas was a senior leader this year, during one of the best seasons the Van Alstyne girls basketball program has ever seen with a 24-10 overall record on the year and a playoff run that ended in the regional quarterfinals. Thomas saved her best season for last, proving to be an offensive and defensive anchor. She was consistently reliable in the post and was looked to make the clutch shot, block, or steal if and when the moment arose. Thomas’s standout season was not unnoticed, as she was selected for First Team All-District honors for her successful season and also selected to receive All-Region honors.
“I remember struggling a lot last year while going through my injury problems,” Thomas said. “It was difficult not being able to do much, not being able to help out the team. Then this year as a senior, and with the other senior girls, we were able to direct the team and get us all on the same page. Then we all put together a group dynamic that focused on helping one another achieve our personal goals and our overall goals as a team … I remember coach [Tyler] Dyer sat us all down and wanted to know what our goals were, and if I can speak for the seniors; our main goals were to go further than we’ve ever gone in the playoffs, and hopefully we started a culture that the girls coming after us can build onto.”
Thomas and the other senior Lady Panthers were respectively successful in this endeavor, having been the most accomplished Lady Panther team in over 20 years with a 9-3 district winning record, and making it further than Thomas had ever been in the playoffs.
The difficulties of the injury and the hours of hard work put on the court brought about an opportunity for Thomas — who has signed to continue her athletic career with East Texas Baptist University.
Thomas will be joining the ETBU Tigers women’s basketball program for the 2019-2020 season, playing for ETBU head coach Rusty Rainbolt. East Texas Baptist had a fantastic 2018-2019 season, going 23-4 overall with a 14-3 conference record, as well as a first-round playoff appearance. Thomas said she is ecstatic to play, grow and learn in a well-coached program with a reputable winning tradition.
“I’m pumped to be going into the program,” Thomas said. “East Texas Baptist has a wonderful coaching staff who are focused and active in making you not only a better athlete but also a better student and individual, which was very important to me. I’m excited to go off on my own, have new experiences and grow up a little bit.”
On the academic side of things, Thomas wants to major in psychology and go into the sports psychology profession after graduating with her degree. From there, she hopes to work with a college or professional team and their athletes year round.
“I love working with people, I love talking to people, and I love taking care of people,” Thomas said of the choice of study. “So it felt like the perfect career to me.”
With her final year at Van Alstyne coming to a close, Thomas has been able to reflect over the nerve-racking lows, and the deserved triumphs of the highs of her journey, expressing sincere gratitude for everyone who stood by her during it all.
“I would like to say thank you to coach Dyer, the team, and the whole community,” Thomas said. “Because even though these awards and accomplishments may happen to us on the individual level, it takes a village … I couldn’t have done any of this without the support I received from my family, from my coach and team, and the whole Van Alstyne community.”
Thomas has pulled off a brilliant twist, going from a potentially career-ending injury to a college athletic career, showing that with her mindset — the sky’s the limit.