Boise State's Thomas Bropleh follows a long road to success

The senior's never-give-up attitude comes from the mother he’ll play for in Fort Collins tonight.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comFebruary 18, 2014 

“I’m like, ‘What am I doing?’ I just let go and stopped worrying,” Boise State senior Thomas Bropleh said of his dichotomy between the first (zero points) and second halves (14 points, four 3-pointers) of a victory over New Mexico last week. “That’s when I’m at my best — I don’t have next year to think about.”

KYLE GREEN — kgreen@idahostatesman.com

  • BOISE STATE AT COLORADO STATE

    When: 7:05 p.m.

    Radio/TV: KBOI 670 AM; ESPN3

    Vegas line: Pick 'em

    Records: Boise State is 16-9, 6-6; Colorado State is 14-12, 5-8 (lost 75-66 at Fresno State on Saturday)

    Series: Colorado State leads 7-4 (Boise State won 78-65 on March 2, 2013 in Boise in last meeting)

    Notable: Both teams are among the best in limiting turnovers — Boise State is 11th in the nation, giving up just 9.9 per game, and Colorado State is fifth with 9.2 per game.

— Thomas Bropleh was bound to find success after a long journey. It has been that way since the months before he was born.

On Tuesday at Colorado State, Bropleh makes his return to his home state as a senior playing a major role for the Boise State men’s basketball team.

Among the two dozen family and friends expected to be in attendance is his mother, Emma Wisseh, who walked for two weeks from Liberia to Sierra Leone while pregnant with Bropleh in 1991 to evade civil war in the west African nation. That trek set in motion a life that took her son across the United States, preparing him for a basketball career that is hitting new highs as his collegiate career nears its end.

“I’ll always have that in perspective,” Bropleh said. “I’m so grateful. Just thinking about everything that had to happen for me to be at this point, it’s unbelievable.”

The youngest of five children, Bropleh was born in New York shortly after his family left Sierra Leone. His father, David, stayed back in Africa, but never made it across the Atlantic.

On the back of his jersey, Bropleh carries the last name of a man he never met, and sadly, never will — David Bropleh passed away in Ghana in October.

“I never saw him, never built anything up with him, was only able to talk a few times on the phone,” Bropleh said. “I was hoping to maybe visit him in Africa after I was done with college. There were times I’d be mad at him, but I’ve grown past it. I appreciate him bringing me into this world.”

The Bropleh name is well-known in Liberia, and was associated with the regime that was overthrown during the civil war that raged from 1989-96 in which 200,000 were killed. The papers Wisseh carried only mentioned her maiden name.

“I might have been killed if the rebels saw ‘Bropleh,’ ” Wisseh said. “It was just horrific. I had to step over bodies, saw people get killed. We had to get out.”

All the effort simply to bring Thomas Bropleh into the world and to Boise has been painstaking, yet worth it. Bropleh is riding the best stretch of his career — 55 points in his past five games, including 14 pivotal second-half points Wednesday in a 71-70 win over New Mexico. He’s averaging 6.2 points in 16.8 minutes per game.

As a freshman in 2010-11, he averaged 12.4 mpg. The next season, his workload increased to 18.9 mpg with 11 starts. Last season, that time was reduced to 12.8 mpg, but quitting wasn’t in Bropleh’s DNA.

“He has this never-give-up attitude that I really respect,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “It’s pretty special what he’s done, continuing to keep plugging away, earning those minutes this year. It’s a great lesson for our young guys.”

Bropleh spent most of his life in Colorado, starring at George Washington High in Denver, the same school that produced five-time NBA All-Star Chauncey Billups. A first-team all-state pick after his senior season in 2009, Bropleh opted to spend a year at New Hampton Prep in New Hampshire, where he scored 17 ppg alongside Brady Heslip, now at Baylor, and Evan Smotrycz, now at Maryland.

Meanwhile in Boise, the long, arduous paths of basketball coaches converged conveniently for Bropleh. Newly-hired coach Leon Rice knew of Bropleh while at Gonzaga. Assistant Jeff Linder recruited him at San Francisco, as did coach Shaun Vandiver at Wyoming. Rice said Bropleh’s name was one of the first that came up when recruiting that first class.

“He sacrificed to go out to New Hampton to get better, and that’s what he did,” Wisseh said. “He’s been so dedicated. He puts everything into sports and his school. He has never let me down one bit.”

After he did not score Feb. 8 at Utah State, going 0-for-7, Bropleh missed all three first-half shots against New Mexico. At halftime, junior Anthony Drmic told him to “just play.”

“I’m like, ‘What am I doing?’ I just let go and stopped worrying. That’s when I’m at my best — I don’t have next year to think about,” Bropleh said.

Tuesday’s game will be Bropleh’s 120th at Boise State, tied for eighth-most in school history. He hopes to add quite a few more with some postseason wins, and end an up-and-down career with a big finish.

“It’s life,” Bropleh said. “Everybody has an idea of what they want to do — I’ve reached some of them, some I haven’t. I won’t dwell on the things I haven’t done, but there are still things left to do.”

Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_Southorn

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