Nikole Thomas never imagined she would have two homes.
As a young girl, she loved spending weekends with family in Memphis, Tennessee, pretending to be a star cheerleader.
But when her father, Nick, took a job 1,300 miles away as a firehouse deputy in Hanford, Wash., she went to a much more remote — and colder — place.
Grateful for the name she’s made as a standout guard on the Kamiakin High School girls basketball team, Thomas decided Wednesday she was going to return to her hometown.
Thomas signed to play with the University of Memphis women’s basketball at the beginning of the signing period.
“It’s a great feeling,” she said. “For almost 10 years, ever since I moved here, I’ve always wanted to find a way to get close to home and be with my family – and play in front of them.”
From the day she arrived in Kamiakin in 2019, Thomas was the team’s outfielder – a guard who could guard anyone.
But she needed to improve her outside shooting and ball handling in the opposite direction — things she worked diligently on the past two seasons.
“She’s a phenomenal athlete who works so hard,” Kamiakin girls coach Lane Schumacher said.
It was obvious by her junior season that she was developing a well-rounded game. But college recruiters were slow to notice.
So, last October, her father — out of the blue — sent his daughter’s accomplishments and Friday highlight film to Memphis women’s coach Katrina Merriweather.
The next day, a Tigers assistant called back to say the coaching staff looked at the film and liked what it saw — and wanted to set up another call with Merriweather on Sunday.
“We talked for an hour and they put an offer on the table,” Thomas said. “It was a crazy 72 hours.”
Thomas and her family visited campus in late December — and the guard gave the coaches a verbal commitment during the trip. She announced her decision at Christmas.
“My parents had tears in their eyes,” Thomas said.
Thomas said she has a set of goals for her senior year that she would like to achieve: To become a 1,000-point career scorer; leading the Braves to the Mid-Columbia Conference championship and finishing his career in the Class 4A championship at the Tacoma Dome.
“And I want to be a better leader on the field,” Thomas said.
All before she goes home.
OTHER SIGNINGS 2022-23 EARLY SEASON
- Jasen Abner, O’Dea – Seattle University Baseball
- Olivia Anderson, Ellensburg – University of Washington women’s basketball
- Zach Blair, Camas – Oregon State University baseball
- Reeve Boyd, Seattle Prep – Oregon State University Baseball
- Miles Clark, O’Dea – Air Force Academy Men’s Basketball
- Sebastian David – Lakeside (Seattle) – Stanford University baseball
- Max Fraser, Camas – Washington State University baseball
- Jessica Frydenlund, Anacortes – Gonzaga University cross country and track
- Jing Gardner, Head Sealth – University of Washington Softball
- Brooklyn Hicks, Timberline – University of Nevada, Las Vegas Men’s Basketball
- Bryce Johnson, Eastlake – Oregon State University baseball
- Imbie Jones, Garfield – University of Wisconsin women’s basketball
- Kooper Jones, Richland – Washington State University baseball
- Christian King, Seattle Prep – University of Washington men’s basketball
- Adria Lincoln, Monroe – University of Montana women’s basketball
- Gavin Marrs, Ellensburg – Oregon State University Men’s Basketball
- Claire O’Connor – Lakeside (Bellevue) – Gonzaga University Women’s Basketball
- Dylan Osborne, Union, University of Washington baseball
- Tyce Paulsen, Curtis – Point Loma Nazarene University Men’s Basketball
- Malia Samuels, Garfield – University of Southern California women’s basketball
- Will Schneider, Bishop Blanchet – University of Washington faculty
- Samiah Shell, Auburn Riverside – University of Washington women’s soccer
- Isabel Sullivan, Eastside Catholic – University of Nevada, Reno Women’s Basketball
- Jenna Villa, Arlington – Washington State University women’s basketball
- Mason Williams, O’Dea – Men’s Basketball at Eastern Washington University