Hard work pays off for Thorne at EMU

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^ Posted 1 day ago

By Brad Fauber

Andrew Thorne was taught at a young age the benefit of hard work.

So when Thorne began playing basketball shortly after moving to Front Royal from Manassas at age 11, of course Thorne applied that philosophy to the hardwood.

The hard-working mentality paid off for Thorne, who had an outstanding high school basketball career at Skyline High School before taking his game to the collegiate level at Eastern Mennonite University. Thorne said it was during his junior year at Skyline in the 2007-08 season -- the program's inaugural season -- that he really began seeing the benefit of his effort on the basketball court.

"It started right then. The people around me said that they liked people that play hard," Thorne said. "You've got to go full-board 24/7. I was a good player in high school, but I had to prove it. That's how I was brought up. My father said nobody can be mad at you as long as you're working hard."

Thorne -- a self-proclaimed fighter and hustler -- took that work ethic to EMU after high school, where his constant effort to improve has continued to impress Runnin Royals head coach Kirby Dean just as much as Thorne's high-flying athletic ability.

Dean called Thorne a "freak athlete," and Dean said it's Thorne's combination of athleticism and willingness to give 100 percent all the time that makes the 6-4 wing such a special athlete.

"He is incredibly athletic and he plays incredibly hard all the time," Dean said. "I have never had to coach effort with him. He is always ready to go make plays. He brings his lunch pail to practice every day."

During his freshman and sophomore seasons at EMU, Thorne was firmly entrenched in a back-up role behind eventual Old Dominion Athletic Conference Player of the Year Todd Phillips.

Thorne patiently waited for his chance to crack the starting five for the Runnin Royals, and he finally got the opportunity last season, his junior year. Thorne started all 27 games last year and averaged 13.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, leading EMU in both categories.

"He was able to adapt to the different roles," Dean said. "He was really effective as a role player and he has become effective as our best player."

Thorne said he began to take a leadership role on the team during his junior year, as someone needed to step up after EMU lost its top five leading scorers from the 2010-11 season.

The senior has carried that leadership into this season, where he is once again spearheading the Runnin Royals' offensive attack. Thorne is averaging 15.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per contest through 25 games this season. He once again leads EMU in both categories, and he is currently fifth in the ODAC in scoring.

Thorne said he and fellow senior Owen Longacre -- the only other senior on this year's roster -- sat down before the season began and discussed the importance of ending their college career on a good note.

"We wanted to make it a season we wouldn't regret," Thorne said. "We prepared ourselves mentally more than anything. I feel like I've done OK -- I've had a lot of frustrating games myself. But I'm trying my best and doing what I can to help my team win."

Led by Thorne, EMU finished the regular season with a 14-11 record, including a 7-9 mark in the ODAC. The Runnin Royals now prepare for the first round of the conference tournament, which begins today.

The Runnin Royals had an opportunity to claim the seventh-seed and a home game in the tournament's first round, but an 83-81 loss to Roanoke College in Saturday's regular-season finale dropped EMU to ninth-place in the standings. Thorne turned in a double-double in the contest, scoring 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in his final home game.

Thorne said the season has been full of ups and downs for EMU, and the Runnin Royals have had to work for everything they've gotten.

"This season's been like a battle. Every night we have to come out and fight for something," Thorne said. "It's just something that we've had to go through the whole season."

In one of the positives for EMU this season, Thorne was able to achieve a proud personal achievement when he scored his 1,000th career point in a 72-62 win over Bridgewater College last Wednesday.

"It feels good, I really wasn't expecting it," Thorne said. "It's something that I feel like I can carry with me the rest of my life. It feels really good to do it, and I'm thankful for it."

Thorne and the rest of the Runnin Royals will look to extend their season today as they travel to Washington and Lee for the first round of the ODAC tournament. EMU won the only meeting between the two teams during the regular season, a 91-84 overtime victory at Yoder Arena in Harrisonburg.

Thorne said he tries not to dwell on the fact that his collegiate basketball career could soon be coming to an end.

"I just try to think positive about it," Thorne said. "Everything I do I try to have fun. I know if I have fun it's going to make my game better.

"Hopefully we can make some noise [in the tournament]. We're looking forward to it."

Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or bfauber@nvdaily.com


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