Though Canada is internationally known for the superstars it produces in hockey, one of its native sons has found success by choosing to pursue athletic endeavors by wearing high-top sneakers.

Sheray Thomas of Riverdale Baptist has emerged as one of the top players in the area -- if not the country -- since arriving from Montreal in the summer of 2001.The 6-foot-8, 225-pound senior forward is averaging a team-best 24.6 points, 14.2 rebounds and 2 blocked shots, and his standout performances have helped the seventh-ranked Crusaders to a 9-2 start. Riverdale will host its own holiday tournament on Friday and begins with a game against Renaissance (N.Y.).

"I knew if I wanted to play basketball on the college level, I had to play in the States," said Thomas, who averaged 19 points and 13 rebounds last season for the Crusaders. "That was my goal: To play college basketball."

Thomas has already fulfilled that goal, earning a scholarship to play for the University of Kentucky in the fall.

Thomas, who went home this weekend to visit his parents in a suburb outside Montreal, has lost his Canadian accent, made the school's honor roll and has been a force on the basketball court this season. He has scored at least 20 points in eight games this year -- highlighted by a 31-point showing in a victory over Southern on Dec. 14 -- and has given the Crusaders a dominating inside presence to complement senior forward Orlando Wright (18.3 ppg) and senior point guard Jared Blake (11.1 ppg).

"He's done everything we've asked of him," Riverdale Baptist Coach Louis Wilson said. "He's a big part of our three-headed monster that has really carried the load for us."

-- Jon Gallo

Riverdale Baptist's Sheray Thomas, a Canadian native, averages 24.6 points, 14.2 rebounds.