Rob Thomas' path to St. John's University or it's men's basketball team has not been an easy or common one. The redshirt junior's story is one of overcoming serious and seemingly insurmountable obstacles – poverty and living on the streets of Harlem during his younger years, dyslexia and learning disabilities growing up as a student, and a serious knee injury several months before his first game at St. John's – to become a college basketball player now on track to graduate.
ESPN's telling of Thomas' story of triumph hits newsstands and the airwaves this week, beginning with "ESPN The Magazine's" Sept. 7 issue, available everywhere on Thursday. Though Peyton Manning and Jeff Saturday of the Indianapolis Colts grace the cover, it's worth flipping to page 126 for a six-page account of Thomas' inspirational tale, chronicling his journey from the streets of Harlem to the hardwood at Queens' Carnesecca Arena and Madison Square Garden.
Written by "The Magazine's" Chris Broussard and featuring spectacular photos taken with Thomas at places of significance during his youth, it is a story that every St. John's or college basketball fan should read.
On Friday, ESPN's hit television series "Outside The Lines" tells Thomas' story in a similar fashion, premiering at 3 p.m. The show, hosted by Bob Ley, features Thomas and Broussard walking through the streets of Harlem and recounting Thomas' tale – visiting the apartment where Thomas grew up, the rooftop where Thomas and his brother would hide from Child Protection Services, St. Nicholas Park where Thomas used to sleep, and at the Minisink Mission in Harlem where Thomas lived for a time and further cultivated his love of the game of basketball.
Thomas played in 29 of 33 games last season as a redshirt sophomore for the Red Storm, scoring 6.1 points per game and pulling down 3.5 rebounds in 16.6 minutes per game. He is one of 13 letterwinners returning to the court for the Red Storm in 2009-10, comprising head coach Norm Roberts' most experienced squad as he heads into his sixth season on the STJ bench. The 2009-10 Red Storm boasts six returnees with significant starting experience, and returns 97.2 percent of its scoring and 95.1 percent of its rebounding from a 2008-09 squad that won 16 games, including St. John's first BIG EAST Tournament victory since 2003.
In other Red Storm sports news on the media front, in the coming months, MTV's True Life documentary series will feature Red Storm redshirt senior Anthony Mason Jr.'s recovery from last year's season-ending surgery in an episode of "MTV True Life: I'm Rehabbing My Sports Injury."