Former Cyclone Matt Thomas Holds First Basketball Camp

NORWALK, Iowa  --  From the outside, Lakewood Elementary in Norwalk feels like any other school during the summer: quiet. Inside, though, it’s anything but.

“Good job, buddy,” said former Iowa State Cyclone Matt Thomas.

Thomas held his first ever basketball camp on Tuesday, leading more than 120 kids through drills, sharing his experiences, and even doing some tricks. But the main reason he was there has little to do with basketball.

“I feel like all of these kids have leadership qualities, they might have to just find them,” said Thomas.

And that is what he hopes to do--help these kids find their inner-leader. The road to this day began last year, when Matt stopped in for a speaking engagement.

“Matt came and talked last spring, and I talked to him about Leader in Me, he said that he wants to give back to that program because he feels so strongly about it,” said Jill Anderson, principal of Lakewood  Elementary.

Matt made good on his word and began planning the camp.

During the two-hour session, he talked with the kids about how he became a successful leader and the sportsmanship, listening skills, and encouragement it involved. 

He plans to donate the proceeds from the camp to Norwalk’s Leader In Me program so the learning won’t stop when the day is over. 

“Whether it’s playing basketball, whether it's in school, whether it's pursuing a medical degree, you know, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing. I feel like if you work hard, whatever your dreams and ambitions are, hard work always pay off,” said Thomas.

Before he left on Tuesday, Matt taught the kids a valuable lesson about leadership: learn how to bounce back from a loss. Thomas may be one of the all-time leaders in 3-pointers made at Hilton, but at Lakewood the court belongs to third grader Roland Tiedt. He eliminated Thomas during of a round of Knockout. 

“I felt happy and excited,” said Tiedt. “I feel good.”

“It hurt, you know, it hurt,” said Thomas. “We might need to check his birth certificate.”