When senior point guard Hank Thorns was selected to the preseason All-Mountain West Conference team, he said he knew his ability to garner personal accolades would be entirely dependent on his team’s ability to rebound from an 11-22 campaign the previous season.
“I want to be remembered as one of the ones that helped turn this program around,” Thorns said in October.
Thorns started 63 of the 65 games in which he played at TCU, and he will leave the Horned Frog program as one of the top passers in the school’s history.
During his senior season, Thorns increased his scoring average by three points per game, raised his 3-point shooting percentage by 10 percent, and led his team to an 18-15 record that gave TCU its first postseason berth since 2004-05.
On Valentine’s Day, Thorns would deliver the signature performance of his TCU career.
After growing up in Las Vegas, Thorns decided to play his college basketball at Virginia Tech. After his sophomore season, Thorns decided to transfer. One of the reasons he chose TCU was the two matchups each year against UNLV, he said.
On Feb. 14, then-No. 11 UNLV came into Daniel-Meyer Coliseum to take on a team that had not lost at home in conference play.
TCU trailed by 18 points in the second half. From there, Thorns took over. With 3-pointer after 3-pointer, Thorns brought the Frogs back.
As TCU trailed by four with 3:23 to play, Thorns hit his sixth 3-pointer of the game to bring TCU to within one.
After a UNLV layup, Thorns brought the DMC to its feet with another 3-pointer to tie the game.
As the game went into overtime, Thorns knew his team was just five minutes away from the signature win that it had worked so hard for and that the TCU fan base so badly deserved.
TCU led by two with 1:21 left in the overtime period when Thorns hit the one shot that will be seared into every TCU fan’s memory that journeyed to the DMC that night.
A turnaround, fadeaway 3-pointer gave TCU a five point lead that it would not relinquish.
After eight 3-pointers, Thorns finished the game with 32 points as TCU fans rushed the court.
Carried off the court on the shoulders of his teammates, Thorns was vindicated. His work had paid off, and his dream had been realized: having students rush the court after knocking off his hometown team.
Thorns said he hoped his legacy would be that he pointed the basketball team in a different direction.
“I came here and turned the program around. It was a team effort, but I was one of the guys who helped,” Thorns said. “When we had a bad year, I came back and helped the young guys and brought a winning attitude to TCU. I hope to be remembered as someone who worked hard in the classroom as well, not just on the basketball floor.”
And that legacy is exactly what Thorns leaves behind at TCU.
With new head coach Trent Johnson, expectations are different now for TCU men’s basketball. A school, a fan base and an administration are poised to build a winner in Fort Worth.
And Thorns deserves a large “thank you” for making TCU the burgeoning program it currently is.
As the men’s basketball program enters its impending awakening, consider the impact that Thorns had on bringing accountability back to a program that had been dormant for years.