Sikeston (Mo.) sophomore swingman Fred Thatch picked up a nice honor recently when the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association selected him as the Class 4 Player of the Year.
“Getting player of the year as a sophomore, it’s an honor,” Thatch said. “I work hard and it’s nice to see all my hard work pay off. It’s tremendous. I just want to keep working and hopefully be Class 4 player of the year for the next two years.”
Thatch, a 6-foot-3, 195-pounder, has already set the bar pretty high for his high school career after leading Sikeston to a 28-3 record and fourth-place finish at state this winter, when he showcased his versatile all-around game by averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds per contest.
“I do whatever I have to do to win,” he said. “I was playing on the wing a lot but if I had to get down low — if we got into foul trouble with our bigs — I got down low. So I was just doing everything — rebounding, steals, shooting, everything.”
In college, Thatch may project as a shooting guard or small forward, but he’s working to add even more versatility to his tool box. Asked what position he thinks he’ll play at the next level, which is still a few years away, Thatch said he’d probably be a shooting guard.
“But I’m going to start working on my handles so I can be the 1,” he added. “I’ve got the I.Q. and stuff to play the 1 — I’m smart and I can make the passes and get all my teammates involved. I just have to get my handles better. Because I’m only 6-3. With my height, I can still play the 2 I feel like because I can guard bigger defenders because I’m real athletic. But 1 or the 2 in college.”
Of course, Thatch is young enough that he may grow a few inches.
“I’m still growing,” he said. “My aunties and all my uncles are 6-5, 6-6.”
It is still really early in the process, but Thatch liked what he has already seen from both schools.
“Tulsa, I went to a little camp,” he said. “It was real nice, a really nice school. I haven’t really went to see Mizzou that much, but at state I saw the practice facility. It was real nice. Both schools are really nice.”
Thatch has heard from other schools, but one stands out.
“Creighton has been on me kind of hard,” Thatch said. “They’ve been sending me a lot of letters. A couple schools have been sending me forms, to see where I’m playing at this summer. But Creighton’s been on me hard, real hard.”
The Sikeston standout should have several more schools coming after him soon enough. Thatch is playing with a talented St. Louis Eagles’ 16U squad that includes Darius Beane and Marcedus Leech and will get plenty of attention during the spring and summer.
“I feel like we’re going to be really good this year,” Thatch said. “Last year we were pretty good. We got rid of a couple people, added some better people. We have to keep working and get our team chemistry together. We have all the talent in the world — really good bigs, good guard play, we’re athletic, we can shoot, play good defense. We’ve just got it all.”
One of the newcomers is Leech, who recently completed his freshman season at Poplar Bluff (Mo.) High School. Like Thatch, Leech already has early scholarship offers, including from Missouri.
“This year was really when we first met,” Thatch said. “Me and him being two of the top young players in the conference, we got real close. We talked a lot. Then when we found our we were both playing on the same summer team we really got close. We stay in touch a lot. We’re going to hopefully try to get out and some workouts in.”
The two young standouts played twice this winter.
“The first game we played them in the conference and we beat them by 20,” Thatch said. “Then we played them later in the season and beat them by like 30. But I had a whole team. He gave us 30 by himself, but I had a whole team. … I had a lot of help from my team.”
Thatch was impressed by the freshman.
“He’s tough,” Thatch said. “He can play. He can go.”
So can Thatch.
Thatch and Leech have already established themselves as two of the top young players in Missouri and will be worth keeping an eye on.