Lake’s Hoskins puts his life back on track: Blue-Gold game caps comeback for once-promising young basketball standout

Thomas Hoskins of Lake Forest practices with the Gold team this week in preparation for Saturday’s Blue-Gold Game. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Thomas Hoskins knows nobody would have predicted any of this just two years ago.

And he doesn’t blame them.

A promising young player at Dover High, Hoskins saw both his basketball and academic careers seem to come to an end when he disappeared from the courts in 2016, midway through his sophomore season.

Yet, here Hoskins is, getting ready to play in Saturday’s Blue-Gold All-Star Game after re-emerging as a senior at Lake Forest.

“I surprised a lot of people,” said Hoskins. “I surprised myself even more.”

Lake Forest coach Mike Starkey, right, with Woodbridge’s Julius Cannon at the Gold practice, says Thomas Hoskins was a joy to coach this season. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

For Lake Forest coach Mike Starkey, the Thomas Hoskins who emerged from his troubles as a youngster is a joy to be around.

That Hoskins proved himself as a basketball player again was one thing. But Starkey said Hoskins has also won over people all around Lake Forest.

“We came into this deal really not knowing what to expect at all,” said Starkey. “And I feel like he exceeded those expectations.

“If you talk to any teachers, there were a lot of reservations with him coming in at Lake. I feel like he did just a phenomenal job of proving himself there. He turned a lot of people’s opinions around — which isn’t always an easy thing to do.”

Hoskins was a student in the Lake Forest School District before moving to Dover prior to high school. Lake Forest has particularly high academic standards for its student-athletes to be eligible, too.

“I had to work extra hard because I had to get my credits up,” said Hoskins. “It was all in my hands if I wanted to play basketball again. I had to do what I had to do.

“I take it (academics) way more serious. When I was younger, I used to think, ‘All right, I’m going to go school. That’s just automatic.’ It was something I had to do. But it’s not just something I have to do, I should want to do it also.”

On the court, Hoskins didn’t play anywhere last winter. But, this season, he was named first-team All-Henlopen Southern Division after averaging a team-high 13.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and four steals per game as a senior.

Lake Forest’s Thomas Hoskins goes for a layup in the second quarter against Indian River this season. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

The 6-foot-3 small forward also contributed 3.2 assists per game as the Spartans went 15-7 and reached the second round of the DIAA state tournament. That was the most victories for the program since before 2009.

“We absolutely loved him,” said Starkey. “He was a joy to coach. He showed up every single day with a smile on his face and outworked everybody — and left with a smile on his face.

“And I’ve never coached a kid with a motor like his. He never got tired. It was amazing. We’d be doing some sprints. He’d be out front literally skipping sometimes while other people were struggling to make the time.”

“I’ve got a motor in me,” Hoskins said with a laugh. “I don’t like to lose. When the motor gets going, it’s hard to stop.

“I’m just an energetic guy. I don’t know, I just like to see everybody happy.”

Hoskins’ natural abilities don’t come as a surprise for people who remember his father. The elder Hoskins, also named Thomas, was a standout football and basketball player at Caesar Rodney High in the mid-1990s.

As a high school athlete, Hoskins knows that young kids watch him. He especially wants to be a role model to his younger brother, Nakiem Scott, who was a freshman on Lake’s junior varsity squad this season.

That’s why playing in college would be a really big deal for Hoskins. Starkey is looking into small schools or junior colleges for him.

Hoskins talks about being a counselor or mentor when he’s older — maybe even a coach.

Thomas Hoskins during his Dover playing days. (Delaware State News file photo)

“It’s a dream come true,” said Hoskins. “I always wanted it (college) for myself and now I’ve got my little brother looking at me while he’s growing up.

“If I can make it, he can make it. He’s just as good as me. He should be better than me by the time he’s a senior. … I know there’s a lot of kids looking up at me. They come to the games and see me. I’ve got to do the right thing when nobody’s looking.”

‘A dream come true,’ is a phrase that Hoskins uses a lot when he talks about his life. It’s something he says about playing in Saturday’s Blue-Gold game.

Clearly his life looks a lot different now to him than it did just a couple years ago.

“It’s a blessing, it’s a dream come true,” Hoskins said with a smile. “All this, after all those years, the whole process, it was a success.

“It was God’s plan for me to play basketball so I knew it was going to come back. I just had to believe.

“Everybody doubted me,” he added. “They thought, ‘Oh, he’s not coming back to school, he’s not doing this, he’s not doing that.’ There were some odds against me. It wasn’t an easy journey — blood, sweat and tears.”

Free throws

The Blue-Gold girls’ game starts at 1 p.m. on Saturday at the Carpenter Center with the boys’ contest slated for 3:30 p.m. … The event benefits Best Buddy Delaware.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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