The former McAllen High Bulldog and Pan American Bronc will enter the Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday.
Sports was a favorite pastime during Rebecca (Becky) Dube Thomas’ childhood. Her father, Leonard Dube, played semi-pro baseball and later coached Pony League baseball. Becky’s brothers, Robert and Russell, eventually followed their father’s lead into baseball. In addition to her sister Rachel, Becky took up basketball as a seventh-grader at Abraham Lincoln Middle School in McAllen.
Thomas’ interests in the sport were clear and pure.
“I always loved to play basketball just to play basketball,” Thomas said. “I never intended to chase after accolades. In hindsight, I thought I was OK but not that great.”
A closer look at Thomas’ career suggests she was more than an OK player, and the Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Fame agrees. The organization will induct Thomas and nine other honorees at its 31st annual Hall of Fame Banquet on Saturday at the Pharr Events Center.
Thomas came up as a ballplayer in the late 1970s, an era that reflected several antiquated rules for how girls basketball games were once organized. Girls basketball utilized the entire court but only one half of it at a time. Each team had six players on the floor at once: three forwards to produce offense on one end and three guards who played defense on the other end. A 3-point line was still several years away from adoption.
The lack of a 3-point line didn’t initially faze Thomas because she began as a defensive-only guard at Lincoln with someone who would become a coaching giant in the Rio Grande Valley: Teresa Casso.
Casso switched Thomas to offense and quickly became Lincoln’s leading scorer and rebounder during her eighth-grade season.
“Coach Casso and I were together during seventh and eighth grade,” Thomas said. “After my eighth-grade year, she moved onto McHi and I went to a ninth grade center because McHi was only grades 10-12 at the time.”
Casso coached Thomas and the Lincoln Scotties to a 21-1 season in 1977-78 before departing for the only public high school in town. Thomas made the McHi roster as a sophomore for the 1979-80 season. She finished her high school career with 1,625 career points (18.5 points per game), district championships and a basketball scholarship to the University of Texas at San Antonio.
Casso’s head coaching career ended in 2010 when she retired from McHi with over 800 victories. To this day, Thomas can hardly fathom that suited up for an eventual Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Famer (Class of 1996) during a time where girls basketball in Texas switched to five-on-five, full-court competition in 1978-79.
“I hadn’t thought about it like that before but it’s true,” Thomas said. “We made that transition together. We were already successful winning games and we continued that success for years to come.”
After a year at UTSA, Thomas transferred back home to Pan American University in 1983 and played two and a half years as a Bronc for beloved coach John McDowell.
McDowell helped the already skilled Thomas reach new heights as a scorer, finishing fifth in school history in points (1,159). Most notable is Thomas’ junior year when she led the NAIA in scoring (28.4 points) during the 1984-85 season.
Thomas describes herself as a scorer and not a shooter. Historically, Thomas ended her Bronc tenure as the program leader in field goal percentage (.556) and field goals made (514).
“I didn’t know I was leading the nation in scoring until somebody told me,” Thomas said. “Coach McDowell gave me the green light, obviously. If I saw an opportunity to take a shot or go in for a drive, he was very supportive of me doing so. I hear people tell me now that there wasn’t a shot I didn’t like.”
Thomas’ induction Saturday into the Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Fame isn’t her first election into history. UTRGV Athletics named Thomas as a part of their Hall of Fame Class of 2017.
“I’m honored and thrilled to be considered,” Thomas said. “I couldn’t even imagine getting into one hall of fame. Now getting into two of them is amazing.”