It’s more than just a team that will be representing State Fair Community College in the NJCAA national tournament next week in Hutchinson, Kan. The Roadrunners see themselves as a family.
“We’re brothers, that’s how we look at it,” said Joe Thomasson. “We love each other, we care about each other, day in, day out, off the court. We’ve really got a bond. Nobody can come between us.”
That family, led by the sophomore class of Kevin Punter, Thomasson, DeRon “Bubba” Hill, Marcus Mondaine and Ben Denbow, has the team on a 15-game winning streak including regional and district championships and a trip to the national tournament.
Those players came to State Fair from different parts of the country — Hill and Mondaine from Kansas City, Punter and freshman Kedar Edwards from New York, Thomasson from Dayton, Ohio.
Punter remembers his first impression of the similarly lanky Thomasson.
“My first impression of Joe was ‘he’s skinny like me,’” Punter said. “I respect anybody else that’s my size that’s really good because I was always told ‘you’re too skinny.’ Any other good basketball player that’s skinny, I’ve got a lot of respect for.”
“They told me it was another guard from a prep school coming so I was just thinking that’s one more guard I had to beat out,” Thomasson said. “Once me and Kev got on this court together, from day one we were on the same team and we made a bond ever since then.”
The two were in the starting lineup right away, Punter starting 29 games last year and Thomasson starting 27. Another newcomer, Hill, also was a fixture in the rotation seeing plenty of playing time behind current Baylor guard Kenny Chery.
“Bubba is like a grandfather out there on the court,” Punter said. “(He) acts like an old man and talks like an old man. But Bubba’s cool. He brings leadership. He’s always been a solid player, since day one. You know he’s going to hit that jump shot and get in the lane. You’ve got to watch out for him too.”
Thomasson and Punter finished last season second and third on the team in scoring, behind only Chery. This year Punters scoring numbers went even higher, averaging more than 20 points per game with Thomasson and Edwards not far behind with 16.7 and 16.5 points per game.
The team that has clicked this season on the floor is clicking off of it as well.
“We’re with each other 24/7 in the dorms,” Thomasson said. “If you see one of us then you’re going to see two of us. That’s how it always is. We’ve been that way since last year.”
They have gotten to be as close as brothers and they admit that like all brothers, they don’t always see eye-to-eye.
“We argue, we fight, but we don’t care because we know at the end of the day, we know what we’re capable of,” Thomasson said. “We control our destiny. If you watch us in practice, we go at it. We argue every day. That’s something the coaches don’t like. We go at each other no matter what time it is.”
That family has already gotten the Roadrunners into the tournament after winning the Region 16 title for the first time since 1976. Now the brothers on the court want to take the tournament run one step further.
“Our ultimate goal as brothers, as family, as a team is to play on Friday (in the national championship game),” Thomasson said. “We want to do something nobody can take away from us.”
But knowing they have their brothers there with them has given them confidence.
“We go into every game with the mindset that we’re not going to lose,” Thomasson said. “We don’t care who it is. Once we put on the jersey, we play for each other. We don’t play for anybody else, we play for each other. When we go out there and play we have fun. Our teammates on the bench are laughing.”
The Roadrunners open the national tournament at 10 a.m. Tuesday against Shelton State.