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MIAC Profiles of Excellence: Tony Thrasher, Hamline University
by Rich Mies, CSN Mapping the MIAC Columnist
The MIAC prides itself on having an abundance of student-athletes who excel on the playing field and in the classroom while giving of themselves to the community around them, both on and off their campuses. The balance of athletics with academics and community service is a keystone in the core beliefs of the conference and its members.
Tony Thrasher epitomizes this combination. Besides being one of the finest basketball players in the storied history of Hamline University, Tony carries a near-perfect GPA, is active in campus life and is involved in service programs on and off campus.
“Tony Thrasher is everything Division III athletics is about,” states Piper coach Nelson Whitmore. “He has been a terrific role model and leader for our younger players with his work ethic on and off the court. He has been the heart and soul of this program since I came in as coach in August of 2008. Tony is a double major in Math and Environmental studies with a 3.9 cumulative GPA. Tony is always willing to lend a hand to others off the court as well.”
In addition to his success on the court and in the classroom, Tony has been active with his teammates, volunteering their time at nearby Horace Mann Elementary School. “We spend time with kids in different grades, serving as tutors, mentors and role models,” he said. “It’s the second year we’ve done this at Mann. My first two years, we did a similar program at Hancock Elementary.”
He has been a student-trainer for the Piper volleyball and baseball teams for four years and has worked in the Sports Information Office for four years. “I help out with football and baseball stats,” he said.
Tony has been involved in the Student Athletic Advisory Committee at Hamline. The group works to promote support of Piper athletics and to encourage attendance at home games and events. They also participate in the Toys For Teens drive in conjunction with the other SAACs in the MIAC.
Tony is a teacher’s assistant in the Math department this year.
He has been active in the Student-Alumni Board at Hamline for four years. “We help put on Homecoming and the Alumni dinner that week,” he said. “We’ve also put on etiquette training for students, to help them in job interviews. We have hosted various events over the four years to foster spirit of fellowship and to help networking between students and alums and within the alumni community. We try to connect Pipers with Pipers.”
On the court, Tony has etched a place in the school record books as one of the greatest players of the modern era to wear the burgundy and gray as well as one of the best of all time. He will close his career as the fifth-leading scorer in school history, passing the legendary Vern Mikkelsen. He ranks second in school history in three-pointers made, sixth in steal and sixth in free throws made.
He has been a mainstay for the Pipers since the beginning of his freshman season. He was named to the MIAC’s All First Year Team as he helped the Pipers to a 10-10 showing in league play. As the sixth place team, Hamline earned a berth in the MIAC Playoffs. They beat Saint John’s 74-71 in the quarterfinals before falling to St. Thomas, 96-51, to finish the season 12-15. Tony was the team’s second leading scoring with a 12.6 average, and was among the MIAC leaders scoring and field goal accuracy. In Tony’s sophomore year, Hamline slumped to 6-14 in MIAC play and 8-17 overall. He led the team in scoring, with 16.0 points per game, and was 10th in the MIAC scoring race.
In the summer before Tony’s junior year, Barry Wohler, the coach who recruited Tony for Hamline, left to pursue other coaching opportunities. The school hired Whitmore, who brought in a new offensive philosophy. The team struggled, again posting a 6-14 record in conference play and going 12-13 overall. Tony flourished in the new system, with a 14.1 scoring average. He ranked second in the MIAC in three pointers made and was among the league leaders in rebounds, field goal accuracy, steals and three-pointers.
On February 11, 2008, Tony drained a jumper from just behind the free throw line early in the second quarter of Hamline’s game with Saint Mary’s. The bucket put him over the 1,000-point barrier for his career, the first Hamline player to accomplish that feat since 1998.
Tony has been named All-MIAC Honorable Mention each of his first three seasons.
This year, the Pipers are 6-10 in league play and 7-13 overall. Despite missing a handful of games due to a calf injury, Tony leads Hamline in scoring, hitting at a 14.7 clip. He is in the top 10 in the MIAC in scoring, rebounding, steals, three-pointers made and three-point accuracy.
Coach Whitmore has been pleased to have a player of Tony’s caliber on the team, but he is even more pleased with the leadership and other intangibles Tony brings to the program. “Some of the strengths of his character are his tremendous work ethic, determination, and leadership ability,” Whitmore said. “An example of his leadership this season is how he has kept us together as a team through several key injuries - including himself - during a four-game stretch. It would have been easy for us to fold and turn on each other but Tony has kept us together through the tough times. Every day he strives to be a better player and a better person.”
Tony grew up in Hustisford, WI, a community of 1,400 located between Madison and Milwaukee. He has an older sister, Amanda. “She works in Milwaukee now, but played volleyball and basketball in high school,” Tony stated.
He attended Hustisford High, where he starred on the gridiron as well as the hard court. Tony also played baseball and was on the Falcons’ varsity his freshman and sophomore years.”I gave up baseball to focus on basketball,” he said. “Now, I look back and wish I had kept playing.”
Tony spent his freshman year on the JV in football, but took over as the starting quarterback as a sophomore; he also started at cornerback on the defense. “We only made the playoffs my senior year,” he said. “You had to be over .500 to make the playoffs. Senior year, we lost in the first round to the eventual runner-up in the state.”
He was named All-Conference at cornerback his junior and senior years and was All-Conference at quarterback as well in his senior year.
In basketball, Tony played the first two games of his freshman year on the JV. “I got bumped up to the varsity after that, and in the middle of the season I got a chance to start when one of our seniors went down with a sprained ankle,” he said. “I scored 18 points that game and took over.”
The Falcons reached the Section final in Tony’s senior year, after losing in the middle rounds the previous three seasons. Tony was named MVP of the conference as a senior and was All-Conference his junior and senior years. He was also named All-State Honorable Mention as a senior and played in the state All-Star game. He finished as the second leading scorer in Hustisford history.
Tony was named Senior Athlete of the Year.
Off the court, he was a member of the National Honor Society and was active in student government. He served as class treasurer all four years.
Most of the schools in the WIAC recruited him for football or basketball, as well as many other Division III schools in the Upper Midwest. One of the coaches who contacted Tony about playing football was the late Donovan Larson, who was the coach at Hamline. “He put the idea of going to Hamline in my mind,” Tony said.
Cornell and Harvard also recruited him to play basketball. “I was more inclined to play basketball in college,” he said. “When word of that got out, a lot of the football recruiting backed off. “
In the summers, Tony played AAU basketball. The summer before his senior year, Tony was playing at an AAU tourney in Las Vegas. One of the coaches who talked to him there was Jeremy Tiers, who was an assistant at Hamline at the time. “He got me interested in Hamline,” said Tony. “I also looked seriously at Lawrence. I didn’t consider the WIAC schools seriously, as I felt I’d get a better education at a private school, where the academics are stronger.”
Ultimately, he decided to enroll at Hamline. “I wanted to get away for school, but not too far away,” Tony said. “I liked the idea of living in the Twin Cities. The Math department at Hamline impressed me and Coach Wohler convinced me it would be the best place for me.”
In retrospect, Tony remains convinced that Hamline has been the best place for him. “Basically, it has given me what I wanted out of college,” he said. “It has given me everything I wanted: a great education and the chance to play basketball at a high level. The people here are the greatest, too.”
Tony has been a vital part of the Hamline community for four years. Coach Whitmore spoke on behalf of the entire community when he said “Tony will be greatly missed as not only one the all-time leading scorers in Hamline history but more importantly as one of the greatest leaders we have had.”
[The photos are used courtesy of the Hamline University Sports Information Office.]
The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) is widely respected as one of the premier conferences in nearly every sport competed in Division III. Year after year, the MIAC produces teams and individual student-athletes who excel in their given sport. At the same time, the MIAC schools maintain a reputation of commitment to academic excellence. This article is one in a series of spotlights on some of the young men and women who represent the league’s commitment to excellence, both in the classroom and athletics during the 2008-09 academic year.
This feature will be included in the “Profiles of Excellence 2008-2009″ book which will be available for order at RDM Publishing. It will feature profiles of student-athletes from the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, written by CSN’s “Mapping the MIAC” columnist Rich Mies.