The D-III version of leaving school early

More news about: Concordia (Wis.)
Concordia (Wis.) athletics photo

Dustin Thumann had a difficult decision to make.

Should he continue to play college basketball with the teammates he loves? Or give up his final season of eligibility to focus on his rigorous academic pursuits?

After a lot of thought, the Concordia (Wis.) athlete decided the best thing for his future is to put all of his efforts into his field of study.

So he’s trying making the most of his final games with the Falcons.

Thumann is in the process of applying for pharmacy schools and gaining hands-on experience working at a local Walgreens while playing basketball. He knows that when he begins his post-graduate work and related internship, his life will become even busier.

“This last summer, I was putting in hours for basketball and studying for the PCAT, which is the entrance exam for pharmacy school. It was tough even just in the offseason to do that,” said Thumann, noting his final undergraduate science courses have come with a heavy workload.

That intense amount of school work is what swayed him to forgo his final season of eligibility.

But that was not in an easy decision to make.

“Right before this season started, I called my mom every other day – like what do I do?” said Thumann, who played his freshman season at UW-Eau Claire before transferring to CUW a year later. “It wasn’t easy. There were moments I almost came to tears.

“Basketball is my life now, but I have to focus on what my life will be in the future,” he continued. “Basketball is here, and I have made many good friends. But at some point, you just have to say, ‘This is what will get me through the rest of my life, and this is what has to be done.’ ”

CUW coach Shawn Cassidy said he would love to have Thumann back for a final season, but respected the player’s decision.

“I think anytime someone is involved in D-III basketball or D-III sports, they have to make that decision at some point. If they have eligibility left, should they stay around or should they continue with graduation and move on?” Cassidy said.

“He’s got to weigh out the tuition cost,” the coach added. “Obviously, if it was free or at a reduced rate, I think that would make the decision easier for some of these guys to know that they’re not putting themselves in a deeper hole financially with loans.”

And although the decision was to leave the Falcons’ basketball program, Cassidy was supportive and helped Thumann make the choice that was right for him.

“I think it’s my job to help them and council them through these type of decisions. These are life-changing choices that they’re making,” Cassidy said. “I hope that through our discussions with Dustin, we came to a conclusion of what was probably going to be best for him. I’m going to support him whatever way he decided to go.”

Thumann said his teammates were accommodating as well.

“They all understood,” Thumann said. “A few of them have talked to me about it and said, ‘Are you sure this is what you want to do? You can still change your mind.’

“It was definitely a difficult decision to say I can’t play for my final season of eligibility,” Thumann continued. “But once the season’s done, I still have those guys off the court.”

In the meantime, Thumann is looking to make the most of his time on the court with the Falcons.

He has played in all 21 games, making seven starts, and is averaging 5.3 points and 3.0 rebounds per game.

“Dustin is that do-everything guy. He’ll rebound, he’ll score, he’ll defend, he’ll be the first one off the bench to cheer for somebody. And he does it in a very quiet, hard-working manner that never draws any attention to himself,” Cassidy said. “He’s a model of consistency.”

For Thumann, the time spent with the team – like last weekend’s trip to Ann Arbor, Mich., for the Concordia Invitational Tournament – will be more memorable than statistics.

He said he is “enjoying all those moments – not only on the court, but at the hotel and on the road with the guys – making the most of this last go-around.”

“He’s intense. He’s a very focused individual. But it seems like he’s enjoying doing this,” Cassidy said. “That’s all I can ask.”

Concordia (Wis.) started the season 2-5 overall. But since then the Falcons have won 11 of 14 and have qualified for the NACC tournament.

CUW (13-8 overall, 11-5) is currently two games back of Aurora in the league standings.

Because the Falcons are qualified for the conference tournament, Thumann know he will get at least one extra game at the end of the schedule. But he would like to play as many extra games as possible.

“We don’t see why we can’t win the conference tournament,” Thumann said. “We’re not quite out of the (conference race), but it looks kind of like we’re going to finish in second. We’re a little disappointed in that, but it just gives us more fuel to the fire to go out there and win the conference tournament so we can get into the national tournament. Then we’ll see where it goes from there.”

He said he will cherish all of his remaining time on the hardwood, and Cassidy thinks that is the correct approach to these final games.

“The basketball ends too soon. Whenever it ends, it ends too soon,” Cassidy said. “Don’t take any day for granted. Be all in for each other because we can’t replicate this outside the sports world. You’re never going to have a team of 24 other brothers that have got your back – that are there for you day in and day out.”

Hitting 1,000

Jami Morris scored 16 points to help George Fox beat Pacific Lutheran 89-36 Jan. 9, surpassing 1,000 career points in the process. The 14th 1,000-point scorer for the George Fox women’s basketball program now has 1,105 – 10th all time for the Bruins.

Junior Lana Wiesmann became the 15th Beloit women’s basketball player to eclipse 1,000 points during the Buccaneers’ game versus Lake Forest Jan. 21. Her career total of 1,052 is 10th all-time at Beloit.

Megan Hayes of Coe became the eighth women’s basketball player in the program to reach 1,000 points when the Kohawks beat Wartburg, 61-59, on Jan. 21. She now has 1,039, which is sixth all-time at Coe.

Eureka’s Kelsey Shoemake scored her 1,000th point during the Red Devils’ 71-55 win over MacMurray Jan. 21. She is the 15th Eureka women’s basketball player to hit the milestone. Shoemake currently has 1,072 career points.

Coaching milestones

Randi Henderson led the Coe women’s basketball team to 73-62 win over Luther on Jan. 31. The win made Henderson the first coach – men’s or women’s – to win 150 games at Coe.

Where they rank

UW-Whitewater and St. Thomas remained top ranked men’s teams in the country. The No. 1 ranked Warhawks received 16 first place votes while the No. 2 Tommies garnered five.

Augustana fell two places to No. 6 in the Top 25 poll, while St. Norbert climbed five spots into the top-10 at No. 9.

UW-Stevens Point checks in at No. 15 – four spots better than a week ago. No. 18 Whitworth and No. 21 St. Olaf both rose three places while No. 22 Chapman tumbled seven spots.

Illinois Wesleyan (29), Cal Lutheran (4), North Central (Ill.) (2) and Bethel (1) received votes.

No. 3 St. Thomas and No. 4 George Fox are the Region’s top representatives in the Women’s Top 25. The Bruins received one first place vote.

Transylvania, Wheaton (Ill.) and Whitworth will spend another week at Nos. 15, 16 and 17, respectively. UW-Oshkosh moved up two spots to No. 21, followed by No. 22 Puget Sound and No. 24 North Central (Ill.).

Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (7) and Bethel (1) received votes.

Check in

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Josh Smith

Josh Smith covers high school and Division III athletics for the Daily Jefferson County Union in Fort Atkinson, Wis. He has won multiple awards for reporting and photography and contributes to multiple publications in addition to his duties at the Daily Union, including beginning in 2012. He graduated from UW-Whitewater with a degree in print journalism. Around the West for