Even though Thomas Kithier’s senior season did not go according to plan, the 6-foot-8, 225-pound Michigan State basketball signee is now preparing for the college level with a renewed passion for the game.
Kithier transferred to Clarkston after spending three years at Macomb Dakota and was later ruled ineligible by the MHSAA for the entire 2017-18 season, an undoubtedly disappointing result, but Kithier said it’s an experience that has given him an even greater appreciation for the game of basketball.
“I’ve just got a fire in me like I’m ready to play,” he said. “I’m never going to back down from anybody, but I’m just itching to play because I missed the whole year and I’m ready to play. I think I’ve grown up a lot too, I’ve matured a lot more on and off the court. I appreciate the game more, just realizing that something could happen and it could be your last game. But I’m glad I have another four years at State to play.”
While he was forced to sit on the sidelines for Clarkston’s state championship run, Kithier was still able to take positives from the season, including being able to learn from legendary basketball coach Dan Fife and playing with point guard and fellow Michigan State signee Foster Loyer.
“Coach Fife is one of the better coaches in the state, if not the best coach in the state,” he said. “He’s been around forever, he played at Michigan and all of our other assistant coaches just know the game too. Then, being able to play with Foster every day, he can help you out and teach you different ways and see the game differently. Being around other high-level basketball players just helps me out.”
The state championship was Clarkston’s second consecutive MHSAA title and the team dedicated the season to Kithier after he was declared ineligible.
Fife said considering Kithier’s difficult season, he believes he has the right mindset as he heads to the college level and said that the fact that he has a greater passion for the game is to be expected.
“All three of my boys went through injuries that kept them out at different times and I would tell them that at the end of all of this, you’re going to understand it and you’ll have a greater love for playing it,” he said. “You’ll work harder, you’ll understand it better and it’ll inspire you to work even harder now. The fact that you can’t do it anymore, and now that you can - we talk a lot about turning negatives into positives and that’s what athletics teaches you because the game will humble you. If you get full of yourself, it’ll take you down to your knees, so you better not. Stuff like this, for Thomas to feel that way, it’s what he should be feeling.”
After spending just one year at Clarkston, Kithier says that he has become a more confident and better-rounded player as he heads to the college level.
“In the past, I’ve been - not scared, but hesitant to shoot outside and play outside,” he said. “But this year, going against the starters and being on the scout team, I had to be the primary ball handler because a lot of the underclassmen aren’t used to it. So there’s a lot more confidence in my shooting and ball handling and my 3-point and mid-range shots have come a long way this year.”
Kithier wrapped up his recruitment very early in the process as he committed to the Spartans at the beginning of August of 2016, not long after the Spartans first extended an offer to him. Kithier signed with Michigan State back on November 8th.
After committing to Michigan State, Kithier immediately started to build a strong relationship with members of the Spartan basketball program and when Clarkston advanced to the MHSAA Class A boys basketball semifinals and finals at Michigan State, Kithier stayed with Tum Tum Narin and was able to work out with him over that weekend.
“It’s one of the reasons why I committed when you go up there, it’s like a family,” he said. “Everybody’s together, there are not people going off on different paths and stuff, it’s just family culture. The guys, they mean it, they love you and you’re family once you get up there and commit.”
With his Michigan State career ready to begin in just a matter of months, Kithier said he’s obviously excited to be a Spartan and hopes to lead Michigan State to plenty of success in his four years in East Lansing.
“To put in into one word, one word would be amazing,” he said. “It’s going to be an unbelievable experience, my four years at State, and I know that the community is going to have your back, the players are going to have your back and the coaches are going to have your back. I’m hoping for big things at Michigan State and we’re going to deliver them.”
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