FORT MYERS, FLA. | As if anybody need another reason to get caught up in March Madness, there will be some local flavor involved in the “Big Dance.”
Former Regis Jesuit boys basketball star Bud Thomas — who won two Class 5A state titles with coach Ken Shaw’s Raiders during their back-to-back-to-back run between 2009-2011 — and his Mercer team earned an automatic berth in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament with their victory in the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament Sunday.
Thomas, a 6-foot-6, 240-pound senior forward, started and played 27 minutes in the Bears’ 68-60 victory over Florida Gulf Coast at Alico Arena in Fort Myers as the Mercer program secured its first berth in the NCAA Tournament since 1985. Selection Sunday is scheduled for March 16, where Mercer will find out its place in the bracket.
It’s been a memorable season already for Thomas, who scored his 1,000th career point with Mercer in an 89-67 victory over Northern Kentucky on Feb. 16 to become the 38th player in the school’s history to reach the milestone.
On Jan. 18, Thomas set Mercer’s single-game record for made 3-pointers in a game when made nine on his way to a career-high 31 points in an 87-66 rout of Lipscomb. Just two weeks later, Thomas made eight triples in a game to nearly match his own program record.
Thomas earned first team All-City accolades from the Aurora Sentinel for three straight seasons and was selected Gatorade’s Colorado Player of the Year in both his junior (2008-09) and senior (2009-10) seasons when Regis Jesuit won the first two of three straight straight championships.
Another former Aurora prep star could be involved in the NCAA Tournament as well, as Grandview graduate Eric Garcia plays for a berth with his Wofford team Monday night.
The Terriers — who got 12 points and four assists from Garcia, a freshman guard, in their 71-57 Southern Conference semifinal win over Georgia Southern Sunday — play Western Carolina University at 9 p.m. ET in Asheville, N.C.
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. Facebook: Aurora Prep Sentinel