Misty Thomas is arguably Canada’s greatest ever women’s basketball player. She was an all-time great at UNLV and an important member of the Canadian National Basketball Team from 1982 to ’89, during which time she represented the country at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
Thomas was born in Santa Monica, California on July 1, 1964. She moved to Windsor in 1969 when her father, the acclaimed basketball coach Dr. Paul Thomas, accepted a position with the University of Windsor Lancers.
Thomas attended Vincent Massey High School between 1977 and ’82, where she competed in basketball, volleyball, track and field, badminton, and tennis.
Thomas won three Senior and two Junior WSSAA and SWOSSAA Championships in volleyball and was a two-time WSSAA and SWOSSAA badminton champion. In track and field, she competed in springs, hurdles, relays, javelin, and high jump. She particularly excelled in the 100-metre hurdles and 4×100-metre relay, qualifying for the OFSAA All-Ontario finals and placing in the top eight in both events.
On the basketball court, Thomas’ Massey Mustangs won both WSSAA and SWOSSA titles in the ’78-79, ’80-81, and ’81-82 seasons. They took silver at the OFSAA All-Ontario Championships in ’81-82 and bronze in ’80-81. In 1978, as a Grade Nine student, she was named Second-Team All-City in basketball. She made First-Team in each of her remaining four years of high school play. In those same final four seasons, Thomas led WSSAA in scoring each year.
During her time at Massey, Thomas won the 1980 Ontario Basketball Championship with the Windsor Juveniles club team.
In 1981 and ’82, her final two years of high school, Thomas won the Royal Arcanum Trophy, WSSAA’s annual award for its “Most Outstanding Female Athlete.” Over the course of her high school athletics career, Thomas won 14 total medals at WSSAA and SWOSSAA competitions.
Following high school, Thomas attended the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV) on a full scholarship. She had also been nominated for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. At UNLV, she became a two-time All-American and Big West Conference Player of the Year and a three-time Academic All-American and Big West Conference All-Star. She was UNLV’s top scorer in her final two seasons.
With Thomas, UNLV was a regular in the NCAA top-20 rankings and Big West Conference Champion in 1984, ’85, and ’86. In the ’85-86 season, after which Thomas was named UNLV Athlete of the Year, her team advanced to the NCAA Tournament “Sweet Sixteen” and cracked the national top-10 rankings.
Thomas graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Sports Medicine in 1986 as the most prolific scorer in UNLV women’s basketball history. She held UNLV career records in scoring, assists, field goals, and free throws while siting a respectable sixth in rebounds. Her number-four jersey was retired in 1986, making her the first UNLV female athlete to be so honoured.
Thomas helped Canada to sixth place at the 1983 World Student Games. The following year, as a 20-year-old, she competed at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, where Canada’s fourth-place finish was its highest ever. Later, Thomas was named Most Valuable Player as Canada won gold at the CABA International Tournament in Halifax.
Thomas suffered a succession of serious knee injuries that began in 1985 with an ACL tear. The injury put her National Team career on hold until 1986. By the end of her career, which ended prematurely due to her injury problems, Thomas underwent nine total knee operations: five on her left knee, and four on her right.
Thomas was top-scorer and named an All-Star as Canada took bronze at the 1986 World Championships in Moscow. The National Team took another third-place finish the following year at the 1987 Pan-Am Games in Indianapolis. A third bronze followed at the 1989 America’s Cup in Brazil, where Thomas was again named an All-Star. She scored 23 points in a 71-63 bronze-medal match victory over the USA.
Following in her father’s footsteps, Thomas worked as Head Coach of the University of British Columbia’s Women’s Basketball Team between 1989 and ’94. Under Thomas, the team won its first CWUAA title in 20 years in the ’93-94 season. The group eventually finished sixth at the CIAU nationals. Thomas was named Coach of the Year in the following season.
Following her playing career, Thomas became Director of the “Night Hoops” basketball program for “high-risk” teenagers in Vancouver.
She was inducted into the UNLV Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997.