Miryne Thomas did it all.
He played soccer.
He played baseball.
He played football.
But there was one sport he exceptionally succeeded in: boxing.
Thomas, currently a redshirt junior forward for Ball State Men’s Basketball, fell in love with boxing when he was 8 or 9 years old.
It all started in his hometown of Cleveland. Not only did he win Cleveland Boys & Girls Man of the Year, but that same community helped him discover boxing, which became a new hobby and eventual lifestyle.
“I used to go to the Boys & Girls Club in the community back home,” Thomas said. “When it closed down, I ended up seeing one of the guys who I ended up boxing with. He was in the parking lot with his father. I walked over and asked what they were doing, and I started from there.”
The rest is history, he said, but the process of reaching a competitive level of boxing was exactly that: a process.
Thomas went through a year of training before he could even step foot in the ring. He said the hardest part was “trying to figure out the ropes as a young kid.”
Once he was able to fight, he said, it became “a mental game” trying to evaluate his opponent. Thomas was someone who relied more on aggression than technique, and that was difficult for him to overcome.
“It builds up like any other sport,” Thomas said. “When I was younger and started boxing, I was all aggression. As I got older, it became more technique and more of a standard to try and outsmart your opponent.”
Thomas’s mother, Myla Thomas, said she is happy with what he has accomplished in boxing. She was happy to see him find something he enjoyed doing that also kept his head on straight.
“I was proud as a mom,” she said. “I always want to see my kid succeed, and the main thing was not letting him get distracted with the neighborhood, so it was good seeing him do good things.”
Miryne Thomas said he believes he could have boxed professionally. He won the Western Pennsylvania Athletic League Golden Gloves in 2012, and he wanted to keep going, but his mother had to sit him down and have a practical conversation about his future.
“My mom told me a lot of people get injured in the sport,” he said. “She wanted me to try and go to school, and school isn’t a part of boxing because people go pro at 17 and 18 [years old]. She didn’t want me to go down that path.”
It was Myla Thomas’ maternal instinct to protect her son. She didn’t want him to get hurt and believed he had a future elsewhere.
“There was worry because he was getting hit in the head,” she said. “I was kind of scared for him getting hit in the head. As a mom, you don’t want to see your child get beat on.”
This was when basketball came into the equation. All of Miryne Thomas’ friends played, and he felt that was where he fit the most. He wanted an excuse to spend time with his friends, and the game of basketball provided that.
While it took him a while to become acclimated to boxing, he said, basketball came naturally to him, even if it meant not knowing what hand to shoot the ball with.
“I actually shoot right-handed but was left-handed when I used to box,” Thomas said. “I used to watch all of my friends shoot and thought everyone was supposed to shoot right-handed.”
Thomas’ 6-foot-8-inch frame along with his natural talent was why his mother believed he had a future in basketball.
“He was so good at [basketball],” Myla Thomas said. “He picked up the ball one time and was already so good. When he picked up the ball, he took over the court, and it was just like, ‘Wow.’ He dominated.”
Miryne Thomas was a four-time letterwinner at Cleveland Central Catholic High School. He averaged 18.4 points and 10 rebounds per game in his senior season.
Ball State head coach James Whitford took notice of Thomas’ basketball skills, but he was just as impressed with the person he saw in him.
“When we recruited him and [did] our research on him, we learned that when he was in high school, he was named the Cleveland Boys & Girls Man of the Year,” Whitford said. “He has a charismatic personality, he is loud, he is outspoken and he wears his feelings on his sleeve.”
Whitford was also impressed with Thomas’ strength, especially in his core, which Whitford said is necessary for basketball.
“He is exceptionally strong,” Whitford said. “Even though he came here at 180 pounds, he is now up to 200. He has an exceptionally strong core. He is one of the strongest 200-pound guys I know, and he is very physical, which I am sure his boxing had a lot to do with that.”
Strong wasn’t the only adjective used to describe Thomas. Whitford and Thomas’ mother said “aggression” is a word that fits him exceedingly well.
“He is an aggressive player,” Whitford said. “I am not sure if that comes from boxing. I think that is just his personality.”
Myla Thomas attributes that to the neighborhood they came from. She said his personality — his aggressiveness — landed him a spot in NCAA Division I basketball.
“Growing up in the projects, you have to be a little aggressive,” she said. “He has to hold his ground when he has to.”
This aggressiveness guided Miryne Thomas to boxing, and boxing guided him to basketball. He said his experiences in the ring as well as on the court have guided him to where he is today.
“It was a learning experience,” Thomas said. “I learned more about myself than I did the game of boxing. It really helped me develop the mindset I needed to get where I am now.”
Contact Ian Hansen with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ianh_2.