It was just about the last place you would have expected to find me.

The year was 2016, and just two years after my playing days at Dayton were over, here I was at the local YMCA. Refereeing youth basketball. Of all the places I thought basketball would take me after college, the local gym was not one of them.

Two years earlier, after hitting the biggest shot in Dayton history and helping our team advance to the Elite 8, I was hoping to land a spot in the NBA's summer league. That offer never arrived, nor did any offers from the NBA Developmental League. After brief stints playing in Iceland and Colombia, I was back in my hometown of Lexington, answering questions about when I was going to get a real job.

From the outside looking in, it must have seemed like my life and my basketball career had gone off track. The thing is, I was never off of God's track, because I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Even in those darkest times I kept my faith, because it wasn't the first time in my life that God had used my adversity to bring something greater and bring me closer to him.

I got my first taste of adversity on the court at 18 years old, as a freshman at Georgetown University. When I arrived on campus in Washington D.C., I was hoping to join a long tradition of great players to play at GU. Patrick Ewing. Alonzo Mourning. Allen Iverson. Georgetown doesn't retire numbers, but I hoped that when my playing career was over, people would remember my legacy too.

Instead, I only occasionally saw the court, and after my sophomore year, I decided to transfer to Dayton. The difference was immediate. I started all 31 games as a junior, and was the second-leading scorer on the team at 12.3 points per game. I was gearing up for a big senior year, and that's when my coach Archie Miller broke the news to me...despite my success the previous season, I would be coming off the bench for my senior year.

This time, instead of transferring again, I decided to stick it out. I just submitted to God and tried to listen for what He wanted from me. Instead of resenting him, I decided to follow His will and not question it. The real question at that point wasn't whether to stay or leave, but what did God want me to learn from the situation. The answer, as it turned out, was humility.

I had to learn that the team was bigger than myself, and by putting my needs second to the team's, it was easier to put my personal needs second to God's. I decided to try and help my teammate who was taking over my spot, and tried to be the best teammate I could be. As it turned out, God would take us as far the next season than Dayton had ever gone before.


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(Cover photo courtesy of Dayton Athletics)

Thomas Hager