Former manager Thieriot makes Lions debut

by Beacon Staff • February 13, 2008

For Rhys Thieriot, though, those statistics meant much more.,The box score for the Emerson men's basketball game against Suffolk University on Feb. 9 incorrectly lists him as "Johnny Mullen." Beside his number 21, the statistics look generally mundane: 1-for-3 shooting, two points scored and two minutes played.

For Rhys Thieriot, though, those statistics meant much more.

Those two points were the first in the senior guard's career and came in his first game. For the last four years, Thieriot has served as the Lions' team manager. When he entered the game with about two minutes remaining, the Emerson fans in the Piano Row gymnasium stands erupted into loud cheers.

"It was a sound like I don't think I'll ever hear again," said Thieriot, a media studies major.

After missing his first shot, his second attempt-a jumper from the left baseline-swished through the net as the fans chanted his name in approval: "Rhys! Rhys! Rhys!"

Later, he had one final try, but finished 1-of-3 from the floor in Emerson's 83-66 win over the visiting Rams.

"Going in, the coaches told me to relax, and if I got it, to shoot it," Thieriot said. "Coach Smith told me, 'I don't care if you're at half court, just chuck it.'"

For Thieriot, the road to his first college basket has been a long one. When he first arrived on campus as a freshman, he did not believe he would make the team if he tried out. Instead, he asked Head Coach Hank Smith how he could be involved with the program in another capacity.

"I knew I probably wouldn't be able to keep up and be able to play," Thieriot said. "But I wanted to be a part of the team in any way possible."

Thieriot worked with the Lions as the team's manager, performing a number of assorted duties. He said he drove the team to games and practices, helped out at practices and worked as an assistant to Smith.

Despite never logging any time on the court during games, Smith said that Thieriot became an integral part of the Lions.

"We consider him a part of our team," Smith said. "[The coaching staff] feels the same about him as we do the other players."

Thieriot said one of his most important duties was to generate student interest in the program. To help the cause, he made t-shirts, hats and other assorted Lions paraphernalia for players and fans.

"I know this isn't a major sports school," Thieriot said. "But we have a sports program unlike any other in the country."

For many of the players on the team, seeing Thieriot be able to contribute in a game was a great moment. Senior forward Samuel Newman-Beck, who is also a friend of Thieriot's, said the team manager earned the chance to score his first college points.

"This is probably the highlight of his career," the broadcast journalism major said. "He's a great kid who works hard. We're proud to have him with us."

Coach Smith said he first considered putting Thieriot into the game a few days before, after discussing it with his assistant coaches. Smith said he asked Thieriot to play and Thieriot agreed.

After the game, Smith said Thieriot's shot was a special moment not only for the players, but for the Emerson alumni in attendance for Alumni Day following the contest.

"It was the highlight of a great day," Smith said. "Not only for the team, but for former players and coaches in attendance. Everyone said it was the highlight of their day."

For Thieriot, getting into a game was special on another level as well-he shared the court with the players he'd spent his college years admiring.

"The past four years, I idolized these guys," Thieriot said. "Just to be on the same court as them was amazing."

With his first game and his first points under his belt, Thieriot said he has one final goal that would end his career perfectly: a Great Northeast Athletic Conference championship for the team. With Emerson's record currently at 19-3 (12-3 in the GNAC), Thieriot feels this year's team has a good shot at taking the title.

"As long as I've been here, we've been close every year," he said. "Now, I just want to win a championship."