When it comes to playing basketball, there’s no place like home for Golden’s Adam Thistlewood.
This item is available in full to subscribers.
If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.
Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.
If you made a voluntary contribution in 2022-2023 of $50 or more, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one at no additional charge. VIP Digital Access includes access to all websites and online content.
The Colorado School of Mines senior forward had a stellar performance Jan. 14, recording the first double-double of his college career against University of Colorado Colorado Springs.
Additionally, the Golden High School alumnus was also named to the Bevo Francis Award watch list, which is an annual award that recognizes the best overall season for a non-Division I player.
Thistlewood’s enjoying his final year of college basketball at Mines, after transferring from Colorado State University. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science last spring and plans to complete a master’s program at Mines.
Thistlewood's transfer also marks the third generation of Oredigger basketball players in his family. His grandpa and parents all played at Mines.
He described how special it’s been to return to Golden and don a jersey that means so much to his family.
“It’s a blessing,” he continued. “ … Being able to come back and do the same thing they did, I really don’t have any words. I’m just honored and thankful.”
Thistlewood’s family has strong athletic ties all around Golden.
His grandpa, Donald Thistlewood, played basketball at Mines and graduated in 1957 with a bachelor’s degree in metallurgical engineering.
His dad, David, played basketball at Golden High School and later at Mines. There, he met fellow basketball player and future wife, Kelly. She was inducted into the Mines Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001 for her performance in both basketball and softball.
Their oldest son, Kyle, also attended Mines for computer science and played on the club volleyball team. Their middle son, Ryan, had a successful basketball career at GHS before going to George Fox University and later West Point.
So, by the time Adam, the youngest, started at GHS, Mines coaches were well-acquainted with the family and had their eyes on him as he became a standout for the Demons.
Former GHS boys basketball coach John Anderson described Adam Thistlewood as “the hardest-working kid I’ve ever coached.” He'd have someone open the gym for him before school and be there so late after practice that Anderson would have to kick him out.
“He has a perfect engineer’s mind,” Anderson continued. “He’s laser-focused.”
Thistlewood’s average of 22.3 points and 8.4 rebounds per game during his senior year helped lead the Demons to a 21-4 overall record and a 2017-18 league title.
He had intended to play for Drake the following season, but Coach Niko Medved got the CSU job. So, Thistlewood headed to Fort Collins.
While Mines had been recruiting Thistlewood while he was still at GHS, Anderson described, he decided to go the Division I route first.
“I think (going to CSU first) helped him to come out of his shell socially,” Anderson said. “ … Getting that experience of playing for Coach Medved at CSU, and meeting his fiancée there was awesome. … I’m glad he went that route and then ended up back at Mines.”
Current GHS coach Lou Vullo first met Thistlewood through club basketball. Although he started at GHS the year after Thistlewood graduated, the two stayed in touch while Thistlewood was at CSU. Vullo was excited to see him return to Golden.
“He’s a stand-up guy — a hard worker and very committed,” Vullo said. “ … He’s a prototypical Demon.”
At CSU, Thistlewood started most games his first three seasons. During his junior season, he averaged 9.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 29.4 minutes per game while shooting 43.3% from the field.
In 2021-22, though, he battled several injuries before and during the season. He played in 24 games, starting in 16 of them, and averaged 2.4 points, 1.8 rebounds and 12.4 minutes per game.
With one more year of eligibility thanks to COVID-19 and with a bachelor’s degree under his belt, Thistlewood decided to play his final year of basketball for his hometown Orediggers. Given his family’s STEM-heavy background and his relatives’ legacy at Mines, he said pursuing a master’s degree at Mines was a no-brainer.
“It was a perfect fit, academically and athletically,” he said. “And then, I’m home. … It’s been a dream come true.”
Thistlewood said the academics are exactly what he expected: “Difficult but rewarding.”
On the court, Thistlewood has had an awesome season for the Orediggers, Coach Pryor Orser said. The forward has averaged 16.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 31.1 minutes per game thus far.
Orser described how Thistlewood's stepped into a leadership role on the team and become a well-rounded player, which is exactly what the coaches wanted.
“He’s everything we thought he was,” Orser said. “ … He’s an ultimate team player.”
Playing in Golden again has been a highlight for Thistlewood, as he’s seen several high school friends, former coaches and other community members cheering him on this season. For him, it's a full-circle moment.
Orser added: “He’s fun to watch. He’s a great player, and he’s fun in our system. He makes other players around him better as well.”
Coming full circle
After he finishes out this season, Thistlewood's priority will be finishing up his master’s degree in 2023-24. After that, though, he’s not sure what’s next. He’d love to play basketball overseas, but he’s also more than happy to start a career in software engineering, he described.
In the interim, he’s enjoying being back in Golden. He visits his family once a week and has gone back to GHS a few times — most recently to shoot hoops with the Demons over winter break.
Vullo described how Thistlewood’s always willing to come back for the youth basketball camps GHS hosts in the summer. The participants are always excited to see him and hear what he has to teach.
“He’s not just a great basketball player, but a great person,” Vullo said.
Anderson was incredibly proud of his former player for how much he’s grown over the last five years. He believed Thistlewood's a great fit at Mines, saying, "How exciting that he’s back and playing in Golden, where he should be."
No matter what happens this season or beyond, Thistlewood’s happy to be home. He said “the stars truly aligned” so he could play one final season in Golden.
“I’m a proud Demon and a proud Oredigger,” he said.
Other items that may interest you
We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.
The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.