Dharyus Thomas is days from graduation, but for some he is already a legend at Southwest Onslow High School (SWOHS). The Stallion basketball team’s returning players were trying to dunk recently before an offseason workout began as one of them said, “I’m Dharyus” and tried to dunk like Thomas, a sign of respect and a reflection of the impact he has had on the program.
Though Thomas has played his last high school game in a Stallions uniform, he has one game left to play before going off to college in the fall – the North Carolina Coaches Association (NCCA) East-West All-Star Game on July 15 at the Greensboro Coliseum.
“It feels great,” Thomas said about being selected by East coach Robbie Kennedy of Southern Nash. “It’s exciting.”
When asked whether or not he was surprised that he was chosen as a North Carolina All-Star, Thomas didn’t hesitate to answer.
“I wasn’t really surprised,” Thomas said. “I worked hard for it, so I could kind of see it coming. I just stayed level-headed and humble and will keep pushing myself.”
The senior guard was selected to the East team after averaging 18 points a game and being named the Coastal 8 Conference’s Player of the Year. Thomas isn’t just a basketball player, though. He played quarterback and defensive back on the SWOHS football team which made it all the way to the East Final of the state playoffs last fall.
SWOHS athletic director and head boys’ basketball coach Eric Kliewer can remember coaching Thomas in JV football when he was just a skinny freshman. Kliewer recognized then that Thomas was one of those players that didn’t want to come off the field no matter what. Now, Kliewer says Thomas has blossomed into a better basketball player than he ever imagined.
“This is probably a bold statement, but he is the best player I’ve coached on varsity,” Kliewer said. “We’ve had a couple good ones come through here, but he is definitely one of the best we’ve had come through here in our program’s history … He is an explosive athlete, but it’s the nuances of basketball he has developed and even progressed in.”
Thomas says that having confidence in his abilities has gotten him to where he is today. It also helped that he was a multi-sport athlete and spent time developing skills needed for both sports.
“I really improved from my freshman year to my senior year,” Thomas said. “I got in the weight room. Football helped me a lot to get where I’m at. I got bigger, faster and [it translated] to basketball.”
One big inspiration for Thomas has been his father, Ricky Thomas, a former U.S. Marine who currently works as an electronics maintenance technician at Marine Corps Air Station New River.
“[My dad has told me to] never let people get to you,” Thomas said. “Never let what people say get to you. Just listen to what they’re saying, and just take it, and just run with it. Always believe in the talent that God gave me. Don’t fear nobody. Just go out there and show what you can do and leave it all on the court and on the field or in whatever you do in life.”
Thomas’ father says that his time in the Marine Corps has helped him as a parent with disciplining and advising his son, who he says can be especially hard on himself at times.
“He [Dharyus] has always had the athletic ability, but I’ve tried to help him work on his mental strength and confidence and mental toughness,” Ricky Thomas said
Though the younger Thomas’ high school career will end with the NCCA East-West game, he is not quite set on putting his basketball sneakers away for good just yet. He intends to play college basketball and is considering Louisburg College, a junior college near Raleigh.
“I hope that he enjoys the entire experience,” Kliewer said. “I know there is a game, but there is the camaraderie that he is going to have with the gentlemen that are out there playing and the coaching staff… This is like the cherry on the sundae, and hopefully it opens some doors to some other things down the road as far as college goes.”
Thomas’ accomplishments are even that much more impressive considering the Stallions played zero true home games this past season due to damage to their facilities from Hurricane Florence. The team had to practice at Southwest Onslow Middle School and played their “home games” 12 miles north of campus at Richlands High School.
The SWOHS basketball team has made the state playoffs each of the last three seasons. This past year, the Stallions finished the season with a record of 14-10 overall and a 10-4 mark in the Coastal 8 Conference, which was good enough for second place in the conference. Their season ended with a 70-56 loss to Southwest Edgecombe in the first round of the 2A state playoffs.
North Carolina Coaches Association’s 2019 East-West All-Star Games
Basketball: Monday, July 15 at the Greensboro Coliseum, Women’s game at 6:30 p.m., men’s game at 8:30
Soccer: Tuesday, July 16 at MacPherson Stadium in Greensboro, Women’s game at 6:30 p.m., men’s game at 8:30
Football: Wednesday, July 17 at Grimsley High School’s Jamieson Stadium in Greensboro at 8 p.m.
Area players to make the NCCA East-West All-Star Game:
Dharyus Thomas – Southwest Onslow basketball
Nya Mitchels – Jacksonville basketball
Collin Hinnant – Dixon soccer
Milton Chandler – Jacksonville football
Isaac Anderson - Southwest Onslow football