BOWLING GREEN - Scott Thomas appreciates the opportunity to play his college career under the tutelage of a coaching staff that boasts two former NBA players.
The Bowling Green State University sharp-shooting swingman considers it a benefit to receive expert direction from people who have been there and done it at the highest level of professional basketball. Thomas, who averaged a team-best 13.2 points last season as a sophomore, considers it a chance to absorb first-hand knowledge about what it takes to perform like a pro.
"You can look at them and say, 'Two of our coaches have played in the NBA,' and that's every high school kid coming to college's dream," said Thomas, who is projected as one of the MAC's top players for the 2010-11 season. "You go to college and play and eventually try to go to the NBA or play somewhere professionally.
"Coach [Louis] Orr and coach [Dennis] Hopson are perfect examples of they've been there and they know people that can help you to get where you want to be."
Orr, the Falcons head coach, and first-year assistant Dennis Hopson, played a combined total of 13 seasons in the NBA.
Orr played eight seasons - two with Indiana and six with New York. Hopson played five seasons - two for New Jersey, two for Chicago and one for Sacramento.
They offer a rare situation for Thomas and the rest of the team.
In fact, the BG coaches are the only staff in the Mid-American Conference that offers such a dynamic, and it's a dynamic the coaching staff embraces and is willing to use toward their advantage when it comes to recruiting.
"It's a uniqueness to us," Orr said. "It establishes sort of an interest. I think it's been a plus, but it's a part of who I am. It's a part of my journey and I think whatever is part of your journey speaks to who you are.
"At the end of the day, it comes down to the person, the people, the relationships. But I've never had anyone say I'm coming to your school because you played in the NBA."
Hopson, who still ranks No. 1 on Ohio State's all-time scoring list (2,096 points), shares similar thoughts.
"I would like to say that my history would help us get players or recruit players," Hopson said. "On this level what I've found that the MAC schools aren't that far away from one another and we're all going after the same kids.
"So, whatever advantage that you can use to land a recruit that's to your benefit. I'm not going to take anything away from myself or coach Orr because I do believe that we can talk about our experiences on a high level and hopefully that will help us land players here."
Hopson's presence on BG's coaching staff last season helped land Start's high-scoring guard Anthony Henderson - the Blade player of the year - after he led the City League in scoring with a 27.7 points per game average in his senior season.
Hopson, a Toledo native, was quite familiar to the Anderson household since Anthony's father, Anthony Sr., was in high school during the same time Hopson played at Bowsher.
Besides choosing a college close to home, the younger Henderson liked coaches' experience.
"I knew they had past experiences [in the NBA] and I knew they knew what they were talking about," said Henderson. "It was a big deal because I knew if I had any questions I knew they'd already been through it all.
"It's a big thing because everything I'm doing right now they've already seen before."
BG's top assistant coach LaMonta Stone, who is heading into his seventh year at BG after previously serving as an assistant at Ohio State under Jim O'Brien, believes having two ex-NBAers on staff can open front doors to some recruits' homes that otherwise may not have an interest in attending BG.
"Most kids at this level, their dreams and aspirations are to play at some sort of basketball after their college days are over, whether it is in the NBA or overseas," Stone said. "Dennis and coach Orr have both of those aspects covered. Not only had they played in the NBA for long periods of time, both of them finished their careers playing overseas. From a recruiting standpoint, I think that's experience that as a staff we could talk about [to players] and know what we're talking about
"The second aspect is they're bringing some intangibles in the day-to-day individual workouts or day-to-day practices that most kids on this level or even playing at the higher level of college basketball most kids don't get to experience. "
Orr, who played for legendary college coaches Jim Boeheim at Syracuse and Hubie Brown in the NBA with the Knicks, said part of his instruction includes sharing with his team his own on-court experiences.
He admits it helps to "establish credibility."
"I can talk about the things that I did as a player and the things that worked for me," Orr said. "I can talk about the things that I saw other players do from my generation."
Orr's players aren't the only ones who have been in position to benefit.
"It's a great situation for me because I'm always learning from those guys," said BG assistant Louis Twigg, who admits to have gained much understanding about the game while watching videotape with Orr since joining the staff in 2008.
Like most staffs, BG's coaches are spending most of July on the road attending countless summer basketball camps.
It's a time when coaches find themselves in hot and sweaty gyms, taking notes and evaluating hundreds of potential recruits playing in a seemingly endless number of scrimmage games.
"I don't think we can give anything nor do anything more than a Mike Krzyzewski [of Duke] or your better coaches in the country," Hopson said.
"But we do have the knowledge that we played the game and it might be some little things that we can teach these guys about when they're on the floor playing that some of these other guys that haven't played might not be able to do.
"There are great coaches and then you have guys that can coach and teach. I think myself and coach Orr are good teachers too. That's a key point in developing players and being a good coach."
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