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 mens 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.
Ill always have that in perspective, Bropleh said. Im so grateful. Just thinking about everything that had to happen for me to be at this point, its 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 Id be mad at him, but Ive 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. Hes 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 wasnt in Broplehs DNA.
He has this never-give-up attitude that I really respect, Boise State coach Leon Rice said. Its pretty special what hes done, continuing to keep plugging away, earning those minutes this year. Its 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 Broplehs 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 thats what he did, Wisseh said. Hes 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.
Im like, What am I doing? I just let go and stopped worrying. Thats when Im at my best I dont have next year to think about, Bropleh said.
Tuesdays game will be Broplehs 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.
Its life, Bropleh said. Everybody has an idea of what they want to do Ive reached some of them, some I havent. I wont dwell on the things I havent done, but there are still things left to do.
Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_Southorn