Lance Thomas's former teammates, Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee, have nothing but postive memories of him. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY
DURHAM—When news broke that Lance Thomas was being sued after failing to pay for nearly $100,000 of jewelry he bought his senior year, it caught his one-time teammates off guard.
“It was kind of shocking,” said Mason Plumlee, a freshman on the 2010 national championship team. “You come to the locker room everyday, and you hear about other schools, ‘oh this happened at Ohio State, this happened in football,’ but you think you’re exempt or something because you’re at Duke, but you’re not. Again, we don’t know where he got the money from, what actually happened.”
Thomas purchased $97,800 worth of custom jewelry on Dec. 21, 2009, midway through his senior year. He made a $30,000 down payment and signed a purchase agreement to pay the balance within 15 days. Thomas defaulted on his payment. Raefello & Co. filed a lawsuit in January after repeated attempts to collect payment. The lawsuit was made public in September, and on Sept. 17, the News and Observer broke the news that both parties had reached a settlement.
Duke head coach Mike Kryzewski, unprompted, mentioned Thomas in his opening statement Friday at media day. He, too, found out about the lawsuit in September and contacted Duke’s administration, who then contacted the NCAA.
“Before anything was made public, they started working together to go through a process of seeing what happened,” Krzyzewski said of Duke and the NCAA. “As a result of that, we want to honor the integrity of that process. That’s why I haven’t made any statements about it and will continue to do that. I hope you would understand that there is an integrity involved in the process, and we’re cooperating fully, and I’m going to adhere to that. . I have complete trust and confidence in all the parties involved and am very proud of our compliance record over the 33 years that we’ve been here.”
Plumlee said that any talk of Thomas is not a distraction to this team, as he, Ryan Kelly, and Todd Zafirovski were the only remaining players who played on that team (Seth Curry had to sit out that season after transferring from Liberty).
“I know Lance, he’s a great guy, and that’s all I know of the situation,” Kelly said. “I wouldn’t expect anything but great things from Lance. As we’ve seen, now he’s done great things and will continue to do great things.
“Obviously it’s portrayed, but you don’t know what really happened,” Kelly said. “I don’t. Nobody does.”