For Thomas, home is where the hoop is

This story appears in the September 7 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

Rob Thomas shouldn't be here.

He shouldn't be running full-court -- foiling one defender with a deft crossover and another with a wickedly awkward, no-look, over-the-shoulder layup, in a summer scrimmage at St. John's. Any number of places would be a more logical destination than a college campus, his college campus.

Like the graveyard, because at 11 he was sleeping on park benches and in subway stations, fighting off older kids, on one occasion even having a gun jammed in his face. Or jail, because at 15 he was a truant who helped to support his family by selling weed on the street. Or the playground, because the guy couldn't read so much as a birthday card the day he turned 18, putting his future somewhere other than on the hardwood. Or the sideline, at best, because doctors thought he might not play high-level ball again after he tore up his knee.

"I don't think anyone in college basketball has been through so much," says St. John's strength and conditioning coach Pat Dixon. "Maybe they have a learning disability or had a tough upbringing or serious injury. But all three? No one."

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