Thomas, Kowal Reflect on Hilltopper Success - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Thomas, Kowal Reflect on Hilltopper Success


ONALASKA, Wisconsin (WXOW) -- Senior guard Matt Thomas finished off an illustrious career at Onalaska High School on March 8 when the Hilltoppers bowed out of the state tournament in their semifinal loss to Pulaski. 

Thomas will play his college ball at Iowa State University in the fall, but said he will always remember his four years playing in purple. Thomas scored more than 2-thousand points playing in a Hilltopper uniform and brought the school its first state title in 50 years as a junior. 

Thomas and his coach, Craig Kowal, sat down with News 19's Pete Zervakis to reflect on the last four years. 

PZ: How fast did high school go by? 

MT: Too fast. I can't believe i'm sitting here as a senior, honestly. I came in to high school as a freshman and I was tiny -- I mean, probably 5-foot-9 in. tall and 135 lbs.  

CK: As a freshman, he just had a mental toughness and a mindset where he never got rattled. I think in his mind he thought he was 6-foot-5 in. and 220 lbs. 

PZ: After the semifinal loss, what was it like thinking Matt Thomas is now done playing in an Onalaska jersey? 

CK: It was one of the hardest moments that I've ever dealt with as a coach. A player that collectively has everything that he brought to the table doesn't come around very often and may never come around again. As a coach, you want what's best for your players and you obviously you want them to go out the right way. We feel Matt should've gone out with a state championship. 

MT: I still think about the loss. But on a positive note, we went 24-3 this year. We lost three games. So it was a successful season. That just wasn't the way we wanted to finish out. 

PZ: After you're gone in the spring, Matt, what do you hope is remembered about you both as a player and as a person? 

MT: I wasn't given anything. I worked for everything. I'm a big believer that if you want something bad enough you can work for it and you'll achieve it. 

CK: His work ethic is unlike any kid's that I've ever seen at his age. 

PZ: Coach Kowal, where do you hope to see Matt in 10 years? 

CK: He can find a way to make a very, very good living playing basketball... I hope it's the NBA. 

PZ: Does coach get tickets if he makes the NBA?

CK: I sure hope so. I'd like to think I helped him but the truth is he probably helped me more than I helped him. 

PZ: How so? 

CK: As a coach, I thought I knew what it meant to work hard. But he's shown me that I didn't know anything until I was able to coach him for four years.

PZ: Matt, how hard did you work to now have the opportunity to play division one basketball? 

MT: Every day you have to put some time in -- whether it be lifting, shooting -- for me, I shoot pretty much every day for an hour. You know, in the summer, your friends are going golfing or going to the beach but you're stuck in the gym. You just have to make those sacrifices, I think. 

PZ: It was worth it? 

MT: For sure, yeah, it's all worth it. I think all the hard work I put in is definitely worth it.  


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