The following appears in the May issue of Orange: The Experience. Written first person by Destiny Thomas.
I cannot believe that I am writing a reflection of my career. If someone would have told me that Clemson was going to change my life, I would not have believed it. I remember coming to Clemson for an official visit back in 2017 — my parents and I drove since it was not too far away from my hometown in Georgia. I vividly remember waking up from a nap to see the giant orange paws in the streets. I felt like a little kid on Christmas morning. I was excited and ready to find out what was so special “in these hills.” I did not think that I would actually commit on a visit, but I did. Clemson made an impact on me instantly — the environment, the culture, the people and the facilities. I knew from one weekend that Clemson was the place I wanted to be. In fact, Clemson was the place I needed to be.
I always wanted to attend a school that would push me academically, and Clemson did just that. I was able to graduate in just three years with my bachelor’s degree in sports communication while minoring in athletic leadership. This past season I was able to work on my master’s degree in athletic leadership. I am proud to say that my hard work in the classroom was very evident, since I was able to graduate with a 3.4 GPA and make ACC Honor Roll every year.
I desired to be a part of a program that was like an extension of my family. I wanted to be a part of a program that was on the rise. I wanted to make an impact. I remember how nervous I felt before my first game as a Clemson Tiger. Our game versus Kennesaw State was the first game of the 2017-18 NCAA women’s basketball season. Seconds into the game, I got a steal and made a layup, which were the first two points of the entire 2017-18 NCAA women’s basketball season. What a memory! The following year, we made our first NCAA Tournament appearance in 17 years. Historic. This season, we made it to the Sweet 16 of the WNIT. This was the first time our program made consecutive postseason selections since the 2000-01 and 2001-02 seasons. There have been ups and downs along this journey, but I was able to grow and become a better person and player. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to compete in the best conference in the country.
It was an absolute pleasure to suit up and compete in Littlejohn Coliseum with “CLEMSON” across my chest. I will always represent and wear the Paw with pride. The memories made, relationships built and accomplishments achieved will always have a special place in my heart. My teammates have made my time at Clemson unforgettable. I loved every minute of going to war with them by my side. They were always there on the days I needed them the most. They challenged me and never let me settle for less. I will always cherish our bonds.
My parents deserve the world for all of the sacrifices and time invested into my career over the years. My family has supported me from the start, and it makes my heart smile to know that I made you all so proud as a Clemson Tiger.
I would like to give a special thanks to Coach Audra Smith and her coaching staff; they recruited me and believed in a young girl from Pelham, Ga., with big dreams and aspirations.
I would also like to thank Coach Amanda Butler and her staff for welcoming me with open arms and investing time into making me a better individual on and off the court. Thank you for helping me become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Thank you for the daily challenges. I will always value the lessons learned.
Sarah-Jo Lawrence played an integral role in my academic success. I came to Clemson with academic goals, and she made sure that I accomplished them. She is the best of the best.
Hillary Smith and Chas Williams provided me with an internship as a content and social media strategist during my time here. I absolutely enjoyed every minute of working with our social team.
To President Jim Clements, Athletic Director Dan Radakovich, support staff, professors, advisors, mentors, managers, Orange Brigade members, Tiger Band, student-athlete development staff, photographers/videographers, friends and the entire Clemson family … I cannot thank you enough for all of your support over the years.
Thank you, Clemson. Thank you for giving me a new home. Thank you for presenting me with the opportunities of a lifetime. The saying “there is something in these hills” is real. I am so glad that I found it. I have always tried to leave something better than I found it. I am filled with gratitude by knowing that I made a difference here, and I certainly am leaving Clemson a better place than I found it. Much love and Go Tigers!
“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”– Dr. Seuss
Destiny Thomas, #1