"I don't think my role will change," said Thoroughman, who is notable for his willingness to assess questions honestly. "I'll still come in and do what I do . There are times we'll need that spark and I think Huggs will call on me. Or, we'll be in a late game situation and need to run a certain play, and Huggs will tell me 'here's what we need to do'. That's one of my strong points. I know what is going on. I'm pretty basketball savvy, so I don't think it will change that much."
Jennings has gained even more size and strength, and Kilicli will be available for a full season after sitting out 20 games as a freshman for perceived amateurism violations (and also because he doesn't play for Kentucky, Duke or Kansas). With both available for a full season, it might be assumed that Thoroughman's role as a defender, banger and spark plug will diminish. However, as he points out, his experience and game knowledge will still be valuable, especially down the stretch, so it would be foolish to think he's not going to have the same sort of role on this year's squad.
A likeable, approachable player who probably doesn't have an enemy in the world (except for a few selected opponents), Thoroughman will also be a leader on the team. The squads' best players, who get the majority of minutes, are always going to be candidates for that role, but there's also room for those veterans that have been through the wars. Ask Thoroughman about that role, and he deflects much of the leadership status to players such as Kevin Jones and Joe Mazzulla, but he allows that his long term status gives him something of a say.
"We're seniors now, and we've been here for so long that we know how everything goes. We know what Huggs expects, and we know what he is going to demand out of you and how most situations are going to go. So, guys look up to us."
Thoroughman downplays his role in that process, but there's no doubt that he's a leader as well. His easygoing, fun personality makes him approachable by anyone, but the tough core that underlies that exterior also makes him an excellent person to have in that spot. He often shows that during games, such as in his now famous decking of Duke's Gerald Henderson during West Virginia's NCAA tournament win two seasons ago. That moment, in which Thoroughman responded to a shove in the back by running over Henderson, began the building of his status as a Mountaineer folk hero.
Thoroughman certainly didn't foresee that when he came to West Virginia. At the time, he figured to be another perimeter sniper in John Beilein's offense. However, two serious knee injuries, involving total displacement of his kneecap, began his transition to his status as an intensity spark plug off the bench for Bob Huggins.
"It is what it is. You have to take it and run with it," Thoroughman said philosophically of his transition. "I know I'm not a good shooter any more like I used to be, but I don't sit at home and think about that .It's the past and it's gone. I am going to work with what I have. It's fine with me."
As befits any leader, Thoroughman doesn't blame the injuries for the loss of his shot, even though it clearly affected his form. Before the injuries, he lifted high on his jump shot and shot the ball with good rhythm. Afterward, for the better part of two years, he couldn't jump much at all, and the altered mechanics certainly had an impact. However, he blames himself in part for the breakdown as well.
"It was me not working on [my shot]," he explained. "I was so worried about getting healthy again. I had the two knee injuries, and I was concentrating on getting that rehabbed. I didn't work on my game as much as I should have. Then when I got back on the court, I just started thinking, 'I have to play as hard as I can', and I didn't work on the other things as much, and it just wasn't there."
Whatever the cause, Thoroughman threw himself full force into his transformation into a different style player, and there's no doubt he has been successful. In addition to providing much needed burst of energy, emotion and physical play, he's earned a spot in the lore of Mountaineer basketball. Other players of his skill level have come and gone, but he'll be remembered long after many of the others have disappeared into the yellowed pages and archived links of old box scores.
"I guess that is a compensation," Thoroughman said as he weighed the changes in his game. "There are definitely a lot of fans that come up to me and talk to me about those things. Someone sent me a video the other day of the Gerald Henderson thing, and I just laughed."
Mountaineer fans should do the same, because they have a player to cheer for that exemplifies everything that WVU teams represent to the home state – a guy that has overcome adversity, responds to challenges, doesn't worry about accolades and accepts every role that comes his way.