Thomas signs with SW for new tennis team — Southwest Bears shop at Loyd Star for Pork Chop, the other white meat

Published 8:23 pm Thursday, March 8, 2018

Southwest Mississippi Community College is starting a new tennis program this fall, and they want Pork Chop to help them raise up a program from the ground.

Pork Chop — Loyd Star senior Lee Wyatt Thomas, 17 — has agreed. He’ll become a Bear this fall after signing a scholarship to play on the new Southwest tennis team Thursday morning.

“They reached out to me, and it makes me feel good to participate in the building process,” Thomas said. “This is a great opportunity to challenge myself, and to help Southwest build a name for the tennis program.”

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Thomas is a six-year veteran of the Loyd Star tennis team. Tennis is, of course, a physical challenge, but Thomas likes the mental aspects of the game.

“It makes me concentrate and assess the situation before I react,” he said.

Southwest tennis coach Joyce Mabry said Thomas is exactly the type of player she wants to help break in the new tennis program. The scholarship offer went out to him because of his smart, focused and aggressive style of play, she said.

“He has a very good game. He plays with intensity and he’s very dedicated to this sport,” Mabry said. “He’s going to be an asset for us, and I’m looking forward to working with him.”

Thomas still has work to do for the Hornets before he sets off to Southwest. He’s 2-1 on the young season so far, and tennis coach Meredith Allen said the senior slammer has a big role to play — her goal is get all the Hornets to state this year, and she’s counting on Thomas’ leadership and ability to help push the team.

“He’s a great player, and he’s going to do great things when he gets to Southwest,” Allen said. “They’re getting a dedicated player — when you love the game and want to play it all the time, you become a great competitor. That’s what Southwest is getting with him.”

Thomas’ mother, Tammy Thomas, said she has always hoped her son would be offered a tennis scholarship, but through his early years in the sport, she wasn’t really expecting it.

“But a couple of years ago, he just kept pushing, and I realized he was getting pretty good,” she said. “I’m just ecstatic. I’m so proud of him — he’s worked hard for this. Anything is possible with the Lord by your side.”

She went on to explain the nickname “Pork Chop,” saying Thomas earned the handle as a teething baby when he grabbed up a pork chop bone and began to gnaw on it.

“When we tried to take it from him, he just growled,” she said.