October 23, 2014

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College basketball: Lorain grad Thomas Wimbush claims Mountain East Conference freshman of year award

Thomas Wimbush, a Lorain grad, had a season to remember at Division II Fairmont State in West Virginia, being named Mountain East Conference freshman of the year. PHOTO COURTESY FAIRMONT STATE UNIVERSITY

Thomas Wimbush, a Lorain grad, had a season to remember at Division II Fairmont State in West Virginia, being named Mountain East Conference freshman of the year. PHOTO COURTESY FAIRMONT STATE UNIVERSITY

Thomas Wimbush will go down in Mountain East Conference history in his first season.

Fairmont State’s redshirt freshman was named MEC men’s basketball freshman of the year, becoming the first player to win the award in the conference’s history — albeit a one-year history.

“It’s a blessing,” said Wimbush, who was also a second-team All-MEC selection. “I wasn’t looking for it in the beginning of the year. I was just focusing on my game and all the little things. I just wanted to contribute to the team as best I can and really understand how to play college basketball.”

The Lorain graduate started 25 games for the West Virginia school and played in all 30, averaging 28.7 minutes. He was the team’s second-leading scorer and led all freshmen in the MEC with a 14.6 average, good for 20th in the league. He ranked 11th in field-goal percentage at .545.

He had eight games of at least 20 points and scored his high of 25 twice, once in an 81-73 loss to then-No. 2 Bellarmine.

He also tied for 12th in the MEC in rebounding, averaging 5.9, and had 33 assists and 27 steals with four double-doubles.

Wimbush said redshirting helped him get acclimated to the college game, especially having to practice against other established Division II players. His biggest area of focus was his outside shooting, which he said wasn’t bad, but wasn’t where he needed it to be.

“That helped me a lot,” said Wimbush, who is going into the offseason looking to improve his ballhandling and rebounding. “Playing with the Division I transfers we had last year and me sitting out and practicing with those guys and competing with those guys every day made me a better player.”

One of his double-doubles, and arguably the best game of his young career, came against conference rival West Liberty. The Hilltoppers were ranked No. 3 in the country at the time and came into the Feb. 15 game with a 21-1 record, but Fairmont State knocked them off 93-81. Wimbush scored 24 points on 10-of-12 shooting and grabbed 13 rebounds.

“That was absolutely amazing,” Wimbush said. “Coach talked to us before the game and he told me he needed a big one. I told him I was going to be looking out every night for him and I just went out there and played my heart out. We wanted to send our seniors out the right way, and we got the win.”

West Liberty got its revenge in the conference tournament with a 97-87 win on March 8 and has advanced to the Division II Elite Eight with its fourth straight Atlantic Region championship.

Wimbush had 14 points and five rebounds in the MEC semifinals.

Wimbush is a political science major with a minor in criminal justice, but like many underclassmen he is still trying to figure out a career path. He hopes to one day start and run his own business.

Contact Chris Sweeney at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.