TERRE HAUTE -- Although he isn't sure how long, Joe Thomas has had season tickets for the Indiana State University men's basketball team for years.
He attends games regularly and has especially enjoyed watching the Sycamores this year.
ISU finished the season with a 20-13 record and also advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
Recently, the Sycamore squad treated Thomas as he, along with two friends, were invited to an ISU practice.
Thomas' close friend, Rick James, set up the event with help from Brad Miley, who was a member of the 1979 ISU men's basketball team that advanced to the NCAA Championship game.
"I told Brad I wanted to do this for him," James told The Brazil Times. "Joe has been a friend of mine for many, many years."
James said Thomas has had health issues in recent years, giving him reason to want to cheer his friend up.
"I thought this would be nice," James said. "This is his highlight."
James said Miley contacted ISU men's coach Greg Lansing and asked if the three could attend the practice.
In addition, the Sycamores will provide Thomas with an autographed basketball.
"(Lansing) is a great guy," James said. "Joe just thought he was coming over for practice only. He's been a great supporter of Indiana State University basketball. He's very passionate."
Thomas, who grew up in Cory, taught in the Clay Community School Corporation (CCSC) for more than 40 years. He also served on the CCSC school board.
Following the practice, Lansing said he has always enjoyed Thomas' company.
"He's always been a guy who was good to sit and talk to," Lansing said. "I enjoy being around him. He's one of the special guys in this community."
Lansing is in his first season as coach of the Sycamores.
He served as an assistant for ISU from 1996-99 and again from 2006-10 before taking the head coaching position June 15, 2010.
ISU defeated Missouri State, 60-56, in the finals of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament to earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Aaron Carter paced ISU with 15 points, while Jake Odum chipped in 12.
On Sunday, the Sycamores learned they would be a No. 14 seed and would face Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The game will be played Friday.
This is Indiana State's first tournament berth since 2001.