SHERWOOD — Life is precious.
Family is precious.
And inspiration can be a powerful, powerful thing.
Braden Thorn knows all about that — maybe better than anyone.
Thorn, who graduated from Sherwood High School back in June, had what could easily be called an inspired senior season, shining bright for the Bowmen boys basketball and baseball teams.
As his senior year approached, Thorn was anxiously anticipating what was ahead of him.
"Coming into my senior year, I was excited," Thorn said last week, as he was sitting near the Sherwood High School football field, looking back on his year. "I looked at it as a fresh start."
But, at the beginning of Thorn's senior year, his father, Jason Thorn, died of pancreatic and liver cancer. He was 49.
"At the beginning of my senior year, my father passed away," Braden Thorn said. "I think it was a big drive for me, to be a better person, and to really work hard and show him what I was made of and what I could do. It really inspired me to have a big senior year."
But that didn't come easy.
"I really struggled at the beginning of my senior year," Thorn said. "The first trimester and whatnot, it was a rough few weeks. (Sherwood boys basketball) Coach (Rahim) Tufts really helped me to keep moving. He got me in the gym, to help me get my mind clear. All of that really helped. It got me motivated and got me moving.
"Coach Tufts lives down the street from me, and he would have me over for dinner, and make sure I was keeping up with my homework, and keeping fit and keeping my mind moving."
With that guidance, and inspiration, Thorn took off on his senior year.
"To be honest, after my freshman year, I never thought I had it in me," Thorn said. "But I worked hard for it, and I think I earned it."
His Sherwood coaches agree.
"For the last three years Braden has consistently been one of our hardest workers on the court, in the classroom and in the weight room," Tufts said. "He sets the standard on what it means to be committed, how to be a great teammate, and how to dutifully hone your craft."
"What distinguished Braden was his commitment to his individual progress as a baseball player, specifically as a pitcher," Sherwood baseball coach Nate Hickok said. "Being both an excellent basketball and baseball player is a challenge for any athlete, but Braden devoted an exceptional amount of time and energy throughout the year to prepare himself and his body to exceed in both sports."
And Thorn certainly seemed to exceed, earning All-Pacific Conference first-team honors during basketball season, when he helped the Bowmen claim the conference championship. He also was an honorable-mention all-conference pick as a pitcher during baseball season, despite having his season cut short due to arm problems.
Now, Thorn has another honor, as he's been named the Times' Athlete of the Year from Sherwood High School. The honor goes to the top senior-class athlete, as seen by the Times, at the school for the 2018-19 school year.
"My dad was one of my biggest supporters," Thorn said. "And I know he's still watching me."
The 2018-19 season was an historic one for Sherwood boys basketball team. The Bowmen went 21-6 on the season, while also winning the Pacific Conference title with an 11-1 mark.
"It was really special," Thorn said. "We tied for the most wins in school history, and we won a league title for the first time in (Class) 6A."
And the 6-foot-5 Thorn certainly seemed to play a key role in that special season, stepping up wherever the Bowmen needed him — offense, defense, inside, outside.
"I was ready to fill in wherever," Thorn said. "That was what I wanted to do — help the team out however I could."
And he helped in a bunch of different ways.
For the season, Thorn scored at an average of 11.5 points a game, putting him second on the team behind Pacific Conference Player of the Year Jamison Guerra. He also had a team-best 5.5 rebounds a game and 1.2 assists a game. He shot at a 43.5 percent clip from the field, with 34 3-point baskets, and he made 73 percent of his free throws.
"I spent a lot of time in the weight room, and I always was able to jump high," Thorn said.
Thorn also played another key role on the team.
"I saw myself as one of the team leaders, especially in practice," he said. "I think I was more of a vocal leader."
"He is a 'self-made man,'" Tufts said of Thorn. "He elevated himself as a player, when it comes to skills, but also as an athlete in the weight room. On top of these things, he is intensely competitive, which raised the level of all our practices. He is a great person. He puts in time with our youth program, is an amazing leader, a phenomenal student and super coachable."
Thorn has some special memories from the season, such as in a 90-44 home win over Cleveland on Dec. 11, when he took a pass off the backboard from Guerra, and threw down a dunk.
"We would mess around with that in practice," Thorn said. "To do it in a game was awesome."
There was also the Bowmen's 66-49 victory at Century on Feb. 15. That win clinched the Pacific Conference title for the Bowmen. Thorn scored a game-high 20 points, while also pulling down seven rebounds in that game.
"In the locker room, after that game, was my favorite part," Thorn said with a smile. "We had some JV guys in there, and the freshmen were in there. We were all celebrating. That shows that we were just one big team."
Sherwood's season ended with a 69-57 road loss to Grant in the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs.
"That was tough," Thorn said. "We didn't want to lose, so we kept on working hard."
But there were plenty of bright moments, such as the 55-40 home win over Sprague in the first round of the state playoffs, and a 56-40 home win over fellow conference contender Forest Grove in front of a "purple out" crowd at Sherwood High School.
"It was crazy," Thorn said of the Bowmen home games. "We had a ton of fans, and when the band is playing, the gym is seriously rocking. It's pretty awesome to know that everyone has your back. This season was almost legendary. It was everything I could dream of."
Bringing the heat
The Sherwood baseball team was looking for big things from Thorn in his senior season. And, when he took the mound, he didn't disappoint.
However, Thorn's time was limited, as he battled injuries all season long, including an ulnar collateral ligament sprain. Still, he helped the Bowmen to an overall record of 17-11, and a berth in the Class 6A state playoffs.
"We didn't have as much success as we would have liked," Thorn said. "But we had a lot of fun. We had fun during our trip to Arizona. I'll remember that for a long time. I'll remember the good times."
Thorn was able to show his pitching potential a couple times during the season. On April 17, Thorn turned in a complete-game performance in a 5-3 conference win over Newberg. In that contest, he gave up three runs on seven hits, while striking out 12 and walking just one. On April 23, he again went the distance in a 2-1 conference victory at Glencoe. In that game, he gave up one run on five hits, while striking out eight and walking none.
"That's what I was expecting all year," Thorn said.
Thorn's season ended on May 7, when the Bowmen were playing conference champs Century in a game at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro. Thorn had pitched two scoreless innings against the Jaguars when things came to a halt due to his elbow injury.
"It had been lingering all year," Thorn said. "After that second inning, I just had to call it."
For the season, Thorn had a 2-3 won-loss record, with a 1.50 earned-run average. He had 47 strikeouts, with just seven walks, in 32 and two-thirds innings pitched.
"Braden's won-loss record is not reflective of his season," Hickok said. "Braden attacked batters throughout the season, and was incredibly effective against every team we faced. Ultimately, Braden was our ace — the guy we wanted to have the ball in our biggest games. It was a shame that he ran into some elbow issues during the last few weeks of the season. We would have loved to have had him on the bump to close out the league season and in the playoffs. Braden will be incredibly difficult to replace in the coming years."
Despite the injury-shortened season, it still was a senior baseball campaign to remember for Thorn, especially since he got to finish up with fellow 2019 Sherwood graduate Anthony Garrett, who was a four-year starter at shortstop for the Bowmen.
"He's pretty much my best friend," Thorn said. "It was surreal being in the dugout with him, and it was cool being a leader with him. I'm beyond excited to see what he does at Gonzaga."
Support all around
Thorn got plenty of support during his senior season, from his mother, Holli Thorn, and his older sister Courtney Thorn, a former Sherwood softball standout who is now attending the University of Oregon.
"I have an amazing mother and sister," Braden Thorn said. "A lot of kids want to make their family proud, and they've given me great support, and the whole community has really supported my family."
And, for Thorn, who has lived in Sherwood his whole life, that community support has been invaluable.
"This community is so supportive," he said. "Going to football games at Sherwood has been unbelievable. And it's a special experience to put on a jersey that says 'Bowmen' or 'Sherwood.'"
Thorn will continue his scholastic athletic career at Linfield College in McMinnville.
"It's close to home. That's one of the biggest factors," Thorn said. "And I think it's a good opportunity for me for athletics."
Thorn plans on playing both basketball and baseball for the Wildcats.
"I've done it my whole life," he said of the two sports. "It definitely will be more of a challenge, but it will be a fun challenge to take on. I'm going to have to stay in good shape, keep lifting weights and throw harder."
Tufts, for one, sees Thorn as being up to the challenge.
"He wants to get better and wants to be coached," Tufts said. "He is going to have a great career at Linfield, and Sherwood is a better school, a better community and our basketball program is better because of him."
That definitely sounds inspiring.
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