MANKATO — Steffaney Thomas spent the fall semester of her junior year doing mission work in Africa, and she didn’t pick up a basketball from the time the 2010 season ended until practice began for this season.
“I really felt like I’d lost a lot of my quickness and the natural feeling of basketball,” Thomas said. “As the season has gone along, it’s starting to come back.”
Thomas, making her third straight start and third of her career, scored 15 points, helping Minnesota State defeat Minnesota Crookston 85-78 in a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference women’s basketball game Saturday at Bresnan Arena.
When Thomas, a 5-foot-11 reserve for her first two seasons at Minnesota State, left the basketball program, she didn’t think she’d ever play again, but she missed the game and her teammates. But last summer, she talked with former coach Pam Gohl about returning, maybe only as a practice player, but Gohl had a spot on the roster that needed to be filled.
“I just wanted to come back,” Thomas said. “I didn’t care what my role was; I just wanted to be good at whatever I did. Be the loudest cheerer on the bench, whatever. I just adore my teammates, and I wanted to be around them.”
Thomas, who got married in July, struggled early and didn’t get a lot of playing time. But last week, when Jamie Bresnahan had to miss a game with a knee injury, Thomas took advantage of her opportunity as a starter.
“We see her in practice every day so we know what she’s capable of,” coach Emilee Thiesse said. “It’s not a given that she wold do well, but she’s a senior now, and she’s playing in her last few games. She understands what the team needs.”