Torey Thomas has never been one to pass the buck.

So when the White Plains resident is asked what it will take for the Holy Cross men’s basketball team to make it back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2003, he doesn’t hesitate.

“I have to be more of a leader for us to be successful,” the junior point guard said.

Last season, the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Thomas started 22 of the team’s 32 games, averaging 7.7 points and 4.4 rebounds to go with a 2-to-1 assists-to-turnovers ratio. And the Crusaders became the first team in Patriot League history to receive an at-large bid to a postseason tournament, advancing to the second round of the NIT.

That followed a freshman year in which Thomas played in all 28 of Holy Cross’ games, averaging 5.1 points per game, including 18 in 21 minutes against Boston University in his collegiate debut.

To be sure, Thomas has stepped right in and made a major impact on the Crusaders. But one of the main reasons he chose Holy Cross in the first place was the fact the team had made three straight NCAA tournament appearances prior to his arrival.

“I wanted to come in and be a part of that,” said Thomas, who after attending White Plains Middle School enrolled at Trinity Catholic in Stamford, Conn., where he was twice named first-team all-state.

Last season, Holy Cross fell to Bucknell 61-57 in the Patriot League title game. Bucknell went on to stun Kansas in the first round of the NCAAs.

And even though Holy Cross lost three starters from a team that won 25 games (the sixth highest total in school history), Thomas is confident about the Crusaders’ chances. After all, six of the nine players in the rotation are back, including Thomas and fellow White Plains resident Kevin Hyland, a 6-8, 246-pound Stepinac product who shot 59.8 percent from the floor while averaging 4.1 points and 15.8 minutes per game last season.

“We’re athletic,” Thomas said. “We’re solid, but we’re young.”

The Crusaders opened the season by winning the William & Mary Tipoff Classic as Thomas had a career-high 20 points along with six rebounds, six assists and three steals in an 85-73 first-round win over High Point.

“I struggled a bit as a freshman, but at the same time, I got some good minutes and acclimated to the system,” Thomas said. “Now that I have a full year as a starter under my belt, I’ve learned my place in the system, and it’s allowed me to be able to play my own game.”

And Thomas said he takes pride in his multi-faceted game. He uses his jet-like quickness both as a tenacious on-the-ball defender and in transition.

“I’m also going to get up and battle with the big guys for rebounds, and will hit the open shot,” he said.

Now he wants to show he’s the kind of point guard who can lead Holy Cross back to the NCAA tournament.

“I’m learning about being a leader,” he said, “and what I need to do to achieve the goals that this team has.”

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