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IVCC’s Arnisha Thomas (holding jersey) will have her home jersey hung in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame’s Ring of Honor. Also pictured is IVCC athletic director Tommy Canale, IVCC women’s basketball coach Pat Cinotte and IVCC’s Tracy Morris. NewsTribune photo/Kevin Chlum
At first, IVCC sophomore Arnisha Thomas wasn’t sure how big of an honor she had earned when IVCC women’s basketball coach Pat Cinotte informed her Tuesday that her jersey would hang in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame’s Ring of Honor.
But a Google search revealed she’d be joining some elite company.
“Legends were in it,” Thomas said about what her Google search revealed. “It’s big. It’s such an honor. I had no idea it was this big. It means a lot.”
Each year, the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame requests the jerseys of All-Americans from NCAA Division I, II and III, NJCAA and NAIA players along with jerseys from the 50 Gatorade State High School Players of the Year.
“Our mission here at the Hall of Fame is to honor the past, celebrate the present and promote the future of women’s basketball,” said Josh Sullivan, the Hall’s director of basketball operations. “That’s an exhibit we thought of that would be really good to celebrate the present athletes and their accomplishments, and when we have kids who come through our museum and see the jerseys, they think, ‘That could be me one day.’ That’s how we promote the future.
“That’s how we came up with the display and it’s been a real big hit. It’s a big honor for these ladies to have their jersey hanging up in the ‘Ring of Honor.’”
More than 100 jerseys will go up in the Hall’s “Ring of Honor” in late May or early June and stay up for a year.
“This is not just junior college. This is the national Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, so this mean’s a lot,” Cinotte said. “That’s why I think it’s just starting to set in now with Arnisha.”
Thomas, an NJCAA Division II Third-Team All-American, is the second IVCC player to have her jersey in the “Ring of Honor” during Cinotte’s four-year tenure. Shannon Washington’s No. 24 jersey hung in the “Ring of Honor” after the 2010-11 season.
“I fell in love with her game and I only saw her play once,” said Thomas, whose white No. 20 jersey will be shipped soon. “To follow her is big. I’m honored.”
The “Ring of Honor” news continued an important week for Thomas as she signed Monday to continue her career at Eastern Illinois University.
“It means a lot (to play Division I) because like coach (Cinotte) said, not many players finish out a juco and continue to play,” said Thomas, who played one year at IVCC after playing at Marshalltown (Iowa) Community College her freshman season. “That’s big for me because I love to hoop.”
Thomas considered University of Alabama-Birmingham, Murray State University, Florida A&M, University of North Carolina-Greensboro and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, among others.
“I only visited (Eastern Illinois),” Thomas said. “There were a lot that I could have visited, but when I went to Eastern, I made my decision because I wanted to stay in the area.”
Thomas is the third IVCC player under Cinotte to earn a Division I scholarship, joining Washington, who signed with Florida A&M and Danielle Hellickson, who signed with the University of Tennessee-Martin.
“It’s great to have another Division I player out of this program,” Cinotte said.
As a sophomore, Thomas averaged 19.3 points, 12.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game to help the Lady Eagles to a 22-9 record.
She was the Arrowhead Conference MVP and was a unanimous All-Region IV First-Team selection.
“Offensively, she’s unstoppable,” Cinotte said. “She’s a very, very good player. She’s a very hard-nosed player. At one time she was top 5 in the country in scoring. She works very hard. She’s working very hard in the classroom right now. She worked hard all year on the court.”
Thomas joins a program that went 22-10 last season, won a share of the Ohio Valley Conference regular season championship and reached the second round of the WNIT.
The program is searching for a new head coach after Lee Buchanan resigned April 15.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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