Giving back drives Fordham’s Mandell Thomas on the court and off

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During his three-plus years at Fordham, Mandell Thomas has taken his game well beyond the hardwood.

From helping with charitable causes to classroom projects that provide valuable public speaking experience Thomas has excelled as a student-athlete in the Bronx.

Early last month the Rochester, N.Y. native was among a couple of hundred basketball players across all divisions of the NCAA as well as the NAIA to be nominated for the Allstate Good Works Team that recognizes contributions within the community.

“It is a nice feeling and it is always good to give back,” the senior guard said of the recognition. “Many people are less fortunate than I am. I get to play basketball at a Division I school, so it is all about giving back.”

When Thomas attended Rush-Henrietta High School in Rochester he lent a helping hand to children in the city’s schools. He grew from that experience and so has the time he has spent with similar endeavors at Fordham.

Among the causes with which Thomas helps contribute are team toy drives, Katie’s Run and Making Strides, a walk for breast cancer. The run benefits the Katie McBride Foundation and honors her memory and all childhood leukemia victims. Katie was 11 when she passed away in 2008. She was the sister of former Fordham basketball manager Mike McBride and the Rams participate in the annual event.

“In high school I did a few community service things, but I have done more stuff in college,” said Thomas. “Katie’s Run is something I first did my freshman year and it’s a real good cause in support of (McBride). When I get the opportunity I still do a few things here and there in Rochester where I am from, like helping kids at inner city schools.”

Thomas takes pride in his ability to balance his many responsibilities, not the least of which is the time demands that come with being a basketball player at the game’s highest level.

“I am good at time management,” he said. “I knew coming into college there was going to be a lot of stuff that I would have to balance with basketball, school and charity work. I knew if I got my time management right everything would fall into place.”

Things have settled into place nicely, including in the classroom. A communications major with a minor in economics, Thomas recognizes the importance of presenting himself whether it is on a one-to-one basis or in a larger setting. As part of his major he has been required give presentations in front of classmates.

“I want to get into business and real estate,” he said. “Being able to talk to people and talk in front of people are key points I wanted to focus on with my major.”

Among topics Thomas has presented dealt with being a college basketball player and the hot-topic debate of concussions in football.

Given Thomas’ experience in the classroom the answer he gave to a question pertaining to the aspect of his game he has improved on most during his time at Fordham may not come as a surprise: communication with teammates.

“I was not really a talker, but I have gotten better in my leadership on and off the court,” he said. “I describe myself as a leader by example. I try to do everything right, do what coach tells me. If other players see that they will do the same thing. So I think I lead more by example.”

The 6-foot-2 and 185-pound Thomas has been leading on the stat sheet as well. Through 14 games his 15.5 points paced the Rams. He was also averaging 4.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists.

What really sets Thomas apart, though, is his ball-hawking prowess. The preseason Atlantic-10 All-Defensive Team selection led the conference in steals a season ago at 2.4 per contest. He is at it again this season with an identical average of 2.4 that is good for second in the conference behind teammate Joseph Chartouny’s 2.5.

Much credit for this part of his game goes to his father, Chad, who in both of his seasons at Rhode Island in 1990s was named the team’s best defensive player.

“My father taught me a lot of tricks here and there about how to get steals, deflections, and to be in the right spot,” he said. “I learned a lot from him, but also my instincts for the game have helped me out.”

The only thing Thomas regrets about his career at Fordham is how fast it has gone by. To that extent he has a piece of advice for those who are new to the collegiate athletics scene.

“It has gone by in the blink of an eye and my message is to enjoy it while you can,” he said. “It goes by so fast and you are going to miss it when it’s over. So take your time, enjoy it and have fun.”

On the cover: Fordham’s Mandell Thomas is a big factor in the community, no matter where he lives. (Courtesy Fordham Athletics)
Tom Layberger

Tom Layberger

Tom Layberger is a freelance writer based in Glen Mills, Pa.