Student athlete keeping NCAA eligibility, option of returning to college
By Dylan Hoosier
Special to Niagara Frontier Publications
This just in: Noah Thomasson, of the Niagara University Men’s Basketball team, has declared for the 2023 NBA Draft – while maintaining his NCAA eligibility.
“This is a decision that I feel is best for me, my family and my future,” Thomasson said.
The Purple Eagles’ lead guard said he made the decision to declare for the NBA Draft while still maintaining his last year of NCAA eligibility.
Announcing his decision just short of a week ago, Thomasson has remained on campus and is still attending classes.
“I want to finish what I started,” He said. “To be able to play basketball for Niagara and have the opportunity to get my degree, too, is a blessing.”
By maintaining his NCAA eligibility, Thomasson can opt to return for another season of college basketball. This scenario is similar to that of Max Abmas, a Division 1 basketball player for the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles, who declared for the 2022 NBA Draft while maintaining his eligibility. He chose to return back to Oral Roberts for one more season.
There is commonality between Abmas and Thomasson: Both come from a smaller conference and ended their season as the leading scorer within that conference.
What Does the NBA Draft Process Entail?
This year’s NBA Draft will take place Thursday, June 22, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
“The process will pick up soon,” Thomasson said. “After the NCAA March Madness tournament, most of the traveling from city to city will take place,”
Though declaring for the NBA Draft could seem like an overwhelming, stressful process, Thomasson’s perspective is different.
“I’m used to the travel, so that is not a major issue for me,” he said. “I’m excited. I’m mostly looking forward to getting feedback from scouts on what I need to improve on.”
Given his performance throughout the entire 2022-23 season, Thomasson is currently projected to go in the late second (last) round of the draft, if he keeps his name in for consideration.
“I’m just testing the water,” Thomasson said. “If I like what I hear from scouts and organizations, it will give me more to think about; but I want to use this opportunity to get an understanding of what scouts and organizations want to see me improve on, and what areas I need further development in, so I can become a complete player all-around.”
He has a time limit for the ultimate decision of staying in school or pursuing the NBA draft.
Everything could change for Thomasson – and the NU team – come May 13, when a final decision is due.
“I love this game (basketball), and all the opportunities it has brought to me,” Thomasson said. “All of this is really just a blessing.”
Niagara Could Lose a Leader
Thomasson declaring for the NBA Draft impacts him, but it also impacts Niagara University basketball.
If he were to choose to forgo his last year of eligibility, the Purple Eagles would lose a starting guard who fills the stat sheet. Thomasson led both his team and the conference in scoring with 19.5 points per contest, and he earned multiple awards due to his offensive prowess: MAAC All-Championship Team, All-MAAC First Team and NABC All-District First Team.
“It’s extremely hard to replace your leading scorer and the experience and leadership that Noah brings to the team,” assistant coach Tyler Kelly said.
Since Thomasson’s decision to declare for the NBA Draft, the NU coaching staff has learned six other players are leaving. It has been recruiting, and has already signed two graduate transfers: Randy Tucker from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and Luke Bumbalough from Ball State University.
By signing two graduate transfers, the Purple Eagles are adding experience to the roster.
“Becoming older with more experience is typically what helps teams win in March,” Kelly said.
Success in the postseason is something the Purple Eagles have had. Over the last three years, they have made it to the MAAC semifinals twice – but not into the NCAA Tournament.
What can get them over the hump and into “March Madness”?
“We are focused on developing the talent we have on the roster, paired with the experience our players have gained,” Kelly said. “Receiving two commitments from both grad transfers helps us address a couple of needs that we felt would better our roster moving forward into next season.”
Similar to last year, when the Purple Eagles had 10 players leave through the transfer portal or graduation, they are looking at an instant rebuild. If Thomasson declares, the structure of the team will change even more.
Pursuing a Dream
Both players and coaches have expressed support for Thomasson and whatever decision he decides to make.
Team manager Anthony Mateo said, “He will be missed.”
Purple Eagles center Harlan Obioha said, “I’m very happy for him. Noah is a great example of what a true leader is, because he leads by example and vocally. Noah makes the game easy for us and himself.
“Initially, when I heard the news I was extremely excited for Noah. The NBA is most players’ dream, and I’m happy he gets to fulfill that.”
Kelly said, “I hope he gets the opportunity to play in the NBA, but I would love to coach him another year!”
This is a Niagara University student-created piece completed as part of the course CMS 226A. For more information, contact the Niagara Frontier Publications’ managing editor.