jeff thayerAlthough his record has since been broken, 1995 Salem Community High School graduate Jeff Thayer left the Wildcats basketball program as it’s all-time career scoring leader. Thayer entered what turned out to be his final game needing 18 points to pass Jim Gaule’s previous school mark of 1,052 points. Late in Salem’s Class AA regional championship game loss to the Centralia Orphans Thayer delivered and finished with a new career standard of 1,057. Thayer’s 23 points in that game marked the 31st consecutive contest he scored in double digits.

Thayer earned All-North Egypt Conference recognition three seasons. He was an Honorable Mention choice as a sophomore during the 1992-93 campaign when he averaged just under 10 points and five rebounds a contest. Along the way Thayer was named to the Salem Invitational Tournament First Team, which included 16 points in a semifinal win over Edwardsville that enabled the Wildcats to reach the SIT championship game for the just the second time in 21 years.

As a junior during the 1993-94 season, Thayer averaged 15.5 points and seven rebounds per contest. Thayer was even better during NEC play where he averaged 18 points a contest including a season-high 28 during a victory at Olney en route to landing all-league Second Team honors.

Thayer saved his best for his senior season where he scored 498 points and averaged 19.9 points per game, which included a career-high 30 points in a 73-54 victory over Red Hill. Thayer helped Salem win its first first-round game at the Centralia Holiday Tournament since 1973 when he tallied 12 points in the Wildcats’ 73-69 victory over Rich East. He followed that up with a 27-point outing in a second-round loss to Chicago Carver that helped land Thayer on the Centralia All-Tournament Second Team.

Later in the season Thayer was named to the All-SIT Team for the second time in three years. Thayer scored 75 points during Salem’s three games, as the Wildcats reached the consolation championship game.

Thayer moved within range of Gaule’s school scoring record when he turned in a 22-point night, as the Wildcats beat Carbondale 65-44 in the first-round of regional play held at B.E. Gum Gym. Carbondale had finished as the Class AA state runner-up the previous season. While Salem’s season ended with the loss to Centralia the following game, the 14-11 record Thayer helped the Wildcats compile was the program’s first winning season in ten years.

Thayer was named to the All-NEC First Team and was selected to represent the NEC All-Stars in its all-star game against the Midland Trail Conference held at Flora. Thayer tallied 15 points in the NEC’s 98-84 loss. Thayer was also chosen to compete in the Lions Club All-Star contest.

Thayer’s athletic excellence was not limited to just basketball. Thayer also exceled on the baseball field. As primarily an outfielder, Thayer won Salem’s team triple crown as a senior in 1995 where he posted team highs in batting average at .370, home runs with four and RBIs with 23 en route to landing All-NEC Team honors.

Basketball proved to be Thayer’s ticket to college where he spent four productive seasons with the McKendree Bearcats. Besides his production on the court, Thayer exceled in the classroom at McKendree where he received American Midwest Conference and Midwest Region All-Academic Team honors.

After graduation from college Thayer became a special agent with the ATF and investigates federal firearm violations.