What if as a senior in college, you had the responsibility of being a full-time student-athlete as well as a single-parent of two while also maintaining a job to support yourself and two kids? For most, this would probably seem like an impossible scenario, but for Miles College senior forward Sammeika Thomas this is a reality and one that she handles like a champion.
Currently the reigning SIAC Player of the Year and the conference’s leading rebounder thus far this season (9.8 rpg), Thomas had her first child at the age of 20. The full-time Early Childhood Education student and security screener at the Birmingham Airport is a single mom to not only her 4-year-old son, Glen, but to Sa’Naiya as well, who turned three on February 4th.
How does she balance these core responsibilities? Creating new life caused her non-stop schedule and is now what influences her to keep it up.
“If I didn’t have kids, I would never work, play ball, and be a full-time student,” Thomas said. However she also states, “My kids are happy and I never wake up and hate what I do.”
Waking up at 7:00 a.m., getting Glen, or “Lil’ G”, to pre-school, and trying to find a sitter for Sa’Naiya before her 10:00 a.m. class is now routine. She feels motherhood influenced her new world views, from campus life to her teammates.
Despite being a Birmingham, AL native, initially stepping foot on Miles’ campus was a bit of a culture shock for Thomas, who played at Rutgers University prior to joining the Lady Golden Bears as a junior. She compared the culture of the two schools as students who seemed focused on education and not necessarily their dress versus students who seemed to make their daily fashion a priority– Miles representing the latter.
“What are their intentions?” she remembers thinking. As a mother, she couldn’t grasp the message of their dress code, at least not at first. “But since I’ve been here, I’ve learned that the kids are really smart…You can’t judge a book by its cover.”
Thomas experienced differences athletically too. She’d learn to play a more well-rounded game rather than trying to beef up a single statistical category.
“I prefer to be statistically even,” she said, “[Miles] wanted me to dominate offensively, but I’ve been taught to do what you can across the board.” She also mentioned the level of knowledge differed as she expected players to execute fundamental moves, like setting screens or boxing out, without explicitly being instructed to do so.
“At first, I didn’t talk to nobody on my team,” she said it seemed her team thought she was arrogant as the new 6’2’’ forward coming from a major Division I program. “Now, they know what type of person I am, so they look up to me.” And while she’s out on the court, two little babies are also looking up to her.
Thomas sets positive examples for her children to follow. Glen loves sports and Sa’Naiya imitates everything her mom does. “I try to do stuff for them to remember that’s positive, both in performance and the way I carry myself during games,” she said. Displaying upbeat and encouraging images for her children is because she feels she can’t tell them to do something if she didn’t. “I can’t tell them to finish school if I don’t do it,” she said as she recalled her experiences with her own mother. “My mom couldn’t help me with the recruiting process, she was just happy that I got the opportunity. I want to be able to give my children insight about college.”
Her two bundles also taught her that you can’t always take advantage of things. She describes being around her teammates, who are mostly in their early 20’s, as a way to relive that age. “I was a mom of two when I was their age, so there are certain things they do that I don’t understand and can’t see myself doing,” but on the other hand she finished with, “God does everything for a reason. My early 20’s were taken away, but I still get to see them (teammates) live through them.”
Thomas’ name is prominent among the SIAC’s statistical leaders again this season, maintaining her “statistically even” teachings. In addition to leading the conference in rebounds, she ranks fourth in the SIAC in blocks (2.2 bpg), ninth in scoring (12.4 ppg), eleventh in assists (2.4 apg), and sixth in free throw percentage (.754). She also ranks seventh in offensive rebounds, averaging 2.8 per contest, while averaging a league-leading 6.9 defensive rebounds per game. Thomas, who was named SIAC Player of the Week three times as a junior, has received the same honor twice this season.
“I’d like for us to win the SIAC Championship game and repeat my player of the year award,” she said, expressing her season-ending goals. After playing since the seventh grade, she will exit the court this year. She’s always wanted to teach and coaching could possibly segue into it. Until then, she continues to tackle responsibilities in every facet of her life, especially maternally.
“Do not let your circumstances stop you from doing whatever it is that you want to do in life,” she said of single motherhood. Besides, Glen and Sa’Naiya didn’t prevent Thomas’ from finishing school or even playing basketball, they facilitated her successes