Lancaster High forward Elijah Thomas isn’t just one of the country’s most elite high school basketball players, he’s also as big a basketball fan as you’ll find anywhere.
He studies the game, watches it on all levels and, naturally, is a fan of most of the NBA’s biggest stars.
But ask Thomas about his heroes and you won’t hear LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony or even Michael Jordan.
“I’d have to say Martin Luther King Jr.,” Thomas said. “He’s definitely one of my heroes!”
We had Thomas and a handful of other elite players dish on what they admire most about King in observance of MLK Day.
Jaylen Fornes, Word of God Academy (Raleigh, N.C.), 2016, G
“I admire him because he was a man that had a bold vision; maybe it seemed farfetched but he stuck with what he believed and his word continued to be heard. It’s obviously made a difference for equal rights and hearing voices equally. Not only did he do it for himself, he did it for a whole society and the future generations so it was a selfless action that carried along; with the help of others of course. He didn’t do it alone he just made people feel that they can make a difference individually, regardless of whether they’re liked or disliked. I figure all of us know how he still is impacting us today; he earned his own memorable day for a reason.”
Elijah Thomas, Lancaster (Lancaster, Texas), 2015, F
College: Texas A&M
“I have so much admiration and respect for Martin Luther King because he unified people. I just think about me and basketball and I’ve had so many influential people help me get to where I’m at from different races. Just great people who helped me and didn’t’ see color. MLK had everything to do with that. His impact will be felt for generations and generations.”
Diamond Stone, Dominican (Milwaukee, Wis.), 2015, C
“I admire him because if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have the freedom I have today.”
Charles Matthews, St. Rita (Chicago), 2015, SG
“Dr. King said, ‘The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.’ Dr. King was an unbelievable man with great character and values. He helped lead this country to change in unimaginable ways and I pay much respect to Dr. Martin Luther King.”
Tyler Dorsey, Maranatha (Los Angeles), 2015, SG
“What he accomplished helps me today in my experience of life, and I admire his leadership and the fight and vision he had.”
Ben Simmons, Montverde (Montverde, Fla.), 2015, F
“I look at him as a leader and someone who was able to make a difference by just being in a room. There are only a few people who can really even do that and, at the same time, he was able to change the world without using violence but words. I think that’s what a real leader does.”
Noah Dickerson, Montverde (Montverde, Fla.), 2015, F
“I admire MLK because he did what many wanted to do but wouldn’t. He brought everybody together and demanded change. Without that my life would be dramatically different today.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY