Locked In: Saint Martin's Bria Thames
Bria Thames was among 161 student-athletes selected as conference finalists for the NCAA Woman of the Year award and among 39 finalists from Division II.
Bria Thames was among 161 student-athletes selected as conference finalists for the NCAA Woman of the Year award and among 39 finalists from Division II.

Friday, September 4, 2020
by Kaho Akau, GNAC Media Relations Assistant

LACEY, Wash. – Bria Thames’ career at Saint Martin’s only lasted for two years, but it was nothing short of amazing.

A native of Beaverton, Oregon, Thames played two seasons at Umpqua Community College before arriving in Lacey and becoming a two-year standout of the Saints’ women’s basketball program. And it didn’t take her long to realize that Saint Martin’s was a perfect fit.

“It felt like home from the moment I arrived on campus,” Thames said. “The Saint Martin’s community is like family to me. I can honestly say that I’m a better version of myself today than I was when I first stepped foot in Marcus Pavilion.”

For her well-rounded nature and dedication to her craft on the court and in the classroom, Thames was selected as one of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference’s two conference finalists for the NCAA Woman of the Year award, which recognizes graduating female student-athletes for their excellence in academics, athletics, community service and leadership.

An Academic All-GNAC selection in 2020, Thames was involved with the Saint Martin’s Black Student Union and also interned at Reed Elementary School in Tacoma. Her senior year, however, would prove to be the most difficult obstacle she had ever faced with the loss of her mother, Donna, in the summer of 2019.

“My mom was my biggest supporter, an absolute role model and the most amazing woman I have ever known,” she said. “Everything that I have accomplished is a direct result of her endless amount of love and sacrifice.”

Despite her involvement on campus and in the community, Thames said her mental toughness and ability to build a strong support system were what made her a natural leader and role model. Whether she was taking extra shots after practice or staying up late to study, she was always on top of her work.

“I hope I can set the example that success is possible through hard work and dedication, no matter what obstacles come your way,” she said. “Building my support system and forming strong connections with my friends and family allowed me to see that no matter what, I am loved and there are people out there who genuinely wish me nothing but the best.”

And the Saint Martin’s community saw nothing but the best from Thames. During her senior campaign, she led the GNAC and ranked 14th in Division II with 11.3 rebounds per game. She also finished third in the conference with 15.2 points per game and sixth with a .503 field goal percentage to earn Second Team All-GNAC honors. Her season and Saint Martin’s career was highlighted by a 29-rebound performance against Concordia on January 18 that set the GNAC single-game record.

“Bria is a fierce competitor,” head women’s basketball coach Christy Martin said. “She brought a consistent effort on both ends of the floor every day. Her positive attitude was contagious. Her work ethic and hunger to improve are unmatched and I was blessed to have coached her. She is everything Saint Martin’s looks for in a person and athlete.”

Thames graduated in May with a degree in psychology and a minor in business, but basketball is still on her mind. She can often be found practicing at various local parks in Tacoma with a personal trainer as she hopes to play professionally overseas. When her playing days are over, she plans to stay in the sports world and pursue a career as a coach, personal trainer or sports psychologist.

“I’d love to be a role model for future athletes and encourage them in the same way that my support system has done for me,” Thames said. “Mental health is a serious topic that is gaining more attention in today’s society. Understanding the human mind and the way it works has always sparked my interest.”

The mentality of a basketball player can be described in just two words: locked in. Being locked in means letting go of any unnecessary thoughts before stepping onto the hardwood. Thames said her mind often goes blank during games. In those moments, her body takes over and she just plays the game that she has loved since she was a young girl shooting hoops at the park. And she carries that same mentality with her in all other aspects of life.

“I want my teammates to remember me not for my athletic abilities but for my character,” she said. “I pride myself on being that person who can always put a smile on someone’s face. I have always appreciated the sense of community that comes with playing basketball. The amount of amazing people who I have met along the way is astronomical.”