Bishop Luers senior Deshaun Thomas sees the young guns leaping to the NBA after one year in college and tries not to get ahead of himself.
He's still on the tail end of high school, with a couple all-star basketball games yet to play, and has yet to get his taste of college ball at Ohio State University.
Still, it's impossible not to wonder when you see other big-time players spending the requisite year in college and sprinting for the big bucks.
“Everybody's saying, ‘You can be one and done, you have the potential,' and stuff like that,” Thomas said. “But I'm trying to take it one step at time in my mind. There's no rush.”
Thomas, who was named Indiana Mr. Basketball last week, has been selected as The News-Sentinel PrepSports Boys Basketball Player of the Year for the third straight season.
Thomas is scheduled to play in the 2010 Jordan Brand Classic game on April 17 in Madison Square Garden, New York, and will wear the No. 1 jersey in the Indiana vs. Kentucky all-star games on June 11 at Bellarmine University in Louisville and June 12 at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
After that, Thomas can concentrate on his Ohio State career.
Unfortunately, he won't get to play with Ohio State All-America Evan Turner, who declared for the NBA Draft.
“He had a tough decision and had to pick what was best for him,” Thomas said. “I would have loved to play with him. He's a great ballplayer who can pass and shoot well. So I'm kind of disappointed, but he had to make the decision that was best for him.”
Thomas will leave his prep career as the state's third-leading boys scorer in history behind Damon Bailey and Marion Pierce. The 6-foot-7 Thomas averaged 31.8 points,15.3 rebounds and three assists per game his senior season.
When he looks back, he says it has been a blur since those days when he first started playing – taking part as a fourth grader in a local league called the SAC (Scholastic Academic Consortium), which included a required study table on Monday nights. The SAC program shut down last year, but Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Joe Jordan hopes to help reinstate it again.
“When I was young, I didn't know anything about playing on a team; I always went to the park or the YMCA,” Thomas said. “That helped me, being part of the SAC. The kids there who had all A's got a letterman jacket with ‘SAC' on it. (The program) helped me out very much when I got to high school.”
Thomas later played in the Future Stars League run by former Northrop, Purdue and NBA player Walter Jordan. Jordan, who now lives in the Atlanta area, remembers Thomas vividly as a seventh grader.
“He was the best I've seen at that age, for sure,” Jordan said. “He had a knack for scoring and a passion for the game.”
Jordan said Thomas' accomplishments put him at the top of the list of Fort Wayne's greatest players.
“It's not even close. He has to be up there at the top,” Jordan said. “I remember the Willie Longs and those great players that came out of that era. Deshaun deserves to be right there at the top. I'm curious and anxious to see what happens under (Ohio State) coach (Thad) Matta's tutelage. I think he chose the right school for him.”
Thomas said he hasn't had much time to relax or put his career in perspective. He has spent his high school career playing all over the state (with two Class 2A state titles) for Bishop Luers and all over the country with Amateur Athletic Union teams.
“It never slows down,” Thomas said. “I guess that's how basketball is. Watching the NBA, they play 80-some games. All this stuff is getting me prepared for that.”
It's not that he's looking to the NBA just yet. But when you've been on the fast track as long as Thomas, it's impossible to ignore.