By Emily McMillan
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Senior men’s basketball player Thomas Gipson, a native of Cedar Hill, Texas, has become one of the strongest and most popular Kansas State players in recent history. Gipson has gone through ups and downs in his four years at K-State and has grown into his leadership role with the team.
“I have changed mentally and physically,” Gipson said. “I have lost a lot of weight since my freshman year, and changed mentally as far as growing up and learning about life in certain situations. Inside of basketball and outside of basketball, I feel like I have matured a lot from my freshman year.”
Stepping into a leadership role in his senior season is just the most recent step in Gipson’s path from his rookie season until today.
“Knowing that it is my turn to step up and take the role of the leader,” Gipson said “With everything that has happened the last few years.”
Growth through the challenges of a college career is sometimes the hardest thing a student-athlete can accomplish. Gipson has done that, and so much more though discipline and a simple change in attitude.
“I have just learned to be happier in basketball and outside of basketball,” Gipson said. “I have always had a great support system with my coaches and my family. They just taught me to be happy more and just do things with a positive mindset. In life it really makes a big difference with the outcome when you do it in a happy way rather than a sulky way.”
One of Gipson’s major changes in his time at K-State has been learning how to become the player and the man he needed to be for the team.
“I think my biggest growth has been stepping into the leadership role and becoming a man,” Gipson said. “The older I get I just try to learn new things, especially from the coaching staff, because they are all great people. Just learning and growing personally really helps me on the court too, so I just think that is a big leap I have taken these last four years.”
Building relationships with his teammates has been a strong part of his success.
“We are like brothers,” fellow senior men’s basketball teammate Nino Williams said. “This is probably our last year playing together, but I think we will be good friends forever. Right now it is more about basketball than relationship, but relationships last forever.
During Gipson’s career he has become one of the most consistent four-year players in school history, as he is one of seven players to rank in the Top 15 in both career scoring (1,158) and rebounding (656). He also ranks in the top 10 in seven career categories, including offensive and defensive rebounds, free throws attempted, field goal percentage, rebounds, games played and started.
“I think he has made himself better and he is just trying to make himself one of the best in K-State history,” Williams said.
Taking advantage of opportunities and overcoming hard times has been what has made Gipson develop into the type of consistent big man that K-State fans have come to expect and see. In the last three years with K-State’s head coach Bruce Weber, Gipson has also had to overcome physical challenges like meeting a time in the mile run.
“With Coach [Bruce] Weber, I think it is the mile that was a challenge,” Gipson said. “I made it last year, but I did not make it this year. That is just a difficult part about being on this basketball team with having to make the mile. Then this year, I had surgery on my shoulder this past summer, and that made it kind of difficult for me to make the mile. I feel like I overcame that with my maturity and my mental focus.”
Being a leader on the court has helped Gipson be seen as an effective leader in the locker room as well.
“I have seen him grow as a leader a lot,” Williams said. “I have been with him since he has been in college. I think this being his senior year and with him being a dominant big, it has just naturally come and I think he has done a good job at it.”
Going in to the end of the Big 12 season and looking toward postseason, Gipson looks to do everything that he can to get his team back to the NCAA Tournament.
“We’re just trying to make it to the tournament and it is tough right now,” Gipson said. “I am just trying to be a good leader to this team. Hopefully Nino [Williams] and I can push through this year and hopefully make it to the NCAA Tournament. Those are really highlights of my career here, because it is a fun time to be in. It is fun to be in the tournament and you just get to go to places you never thought you would get to go to.”
As the end of his senior season approaches, Gipson is not quite ready to look forward for himself, but he can see the future of another in his family. Gipson’s younger brother, Trevis, signed a letter of intent earlier this month to play football at Tulsa.
“I just told him to be patient,” Gipson said, “and whatever road they give you as far as if you have to red shirt, you just have to do it and take that year off and get ready for the next season. I have told him all about the recruiting process and how things should be. I just know he is really excited to be in Tulsa and it is not that far away from home, so our family can still go and see him, and I can still come and see him.”
The dynamic between the four-year college athlete and his younger brother will always be special.
“We have always been four years apart,” Gipson said, “but anytime he was available to come to my games, he did. Now that I am planning the next chapter in my life, hopefully I can make it and watch some of his games. Taking it to the next step of being able to provide for him, if he needs anything, and hopefully, watching him and seeing him succeed.”
Finding leadership in the dominant places and the small places, Gipson has earned respect from fans and from his team.