MURRAY, Ky. (BP)--Murray State student-athlete Danero Thomas enters his junior season with the Racer basketball team after having a life-changing experience over the summer with Athletes in Action.
From late May to early June, Thomas was part of an AIA collegiate basketball team that toured parts of Africa, including Senegal, Mali and Guinea. His trip was filled with community service, Bible study and basketball.
“It’s hard to explain all that I experienced on this trip,” Thomas said. “I can tell you that it changed my life.”
The AIA team stayed in Senegal at a small boarding school and played the Senegal national team in front of a crowd of 3,000.
“They had some different rules that we had to get used to,” Thomas said. “For example, they called traveling a little strange and you could goal tend after the ball hit the rim.”
At Senegal, the AIA team gave basketball shoes to the national team. They also went to two high schools to visit with students.
After a flight to Mali, the team stayed another week, and made visits into Guinea. The AIA team played nine games while in Mali and won them all.
From a basketball perspective, Thomas improved as a player and actually spent some time at point guard.
“I had never played the point before,” Thomas said. “I had fun doing it, but I prefer the wing.”
He played 10 games on the trip, plus practice time, and used it all to prepare himself for the 2008-09 season with the Racers.
“International basketball is very physical,” Thomas said. “You have to play physical or you won’t succeed, and that’s going to help me this season having experienced it.”
The biggest change for Danero Thomas came before he left the country.
“I got saved in Dayton, Ohio, when we started camp,” Thomas said. “The day it happened, Jim Lawson led me to Jesus and I had never felt anything like that. I’m so happy I went on this trip, it was the best thing that has ever happened to me.”
Thomas is not fond of public speaking, but he did manage to give his testimony while in Mali.
“I was nervous,” Thomas said. “There were 2,000 people there, and when I spoke to them, I was telling everything to an interpreter and he was relaying it to the people.”
A big part of the AIA trip was connecting with children as the team visited several schools. Thomas was struck by the quality of living most people have in the area.
“I saw some children that don’t have much,” Thomas said. “And your heart just goes out to them, and you want to help them all you can.”
Thomas said he gave away everything that he took on the trip including shoes, clothing, T-shirts, socks, toiletries, towels, etc.
“I left the USA with so much stuff, but the plan was to give it all to people who need it,” Thomas said.
“I’m thankful that Danero had this experience,” Murray State Head Coach Billy Kennedy said. “I challenge my players to train themselves mentally and spiritually, as well as physically. This trip allowed him to do that, and I believe it will help him become a better player on and off the court.”
Thomas played with other student-athletes from teams including, Kentucky, Valparaiso, Miami, Fla., St. Mary’s, Calif., and Liberty.
“I made some great friends on this trip,” Thomas said. “Ramon Harris from Kentucky is a good friend of mine now because we went on this trip together.”
Athletes in Action was founded in 1966 by David Hannah and has a ministry presence in 85 countries, on nearly 100 U.S. college campuses, and on 35 U.S. professional sports teams. Every summer AIA sends teams of college athletes in multiple sports to compete overseas, grow their individual faith and spread the message of Jesus Christ.
Dave Winder is assistant athletic director for media relations at Murray State University. Story reprinted with permission.
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