CHICAGO – The top college basketball players in the country converged on Chicago this week for the NBA Draft Combine and truth be told, Deshaun Thomas would die to be a part of the gathering. However, the Ohio State forward felt following his sophomore season that he wasn't quite ready to make the jump to the NBA and elected to stay in Columbus.
Thomas may not be ready as of today, but the Bishop Luers High School graduate is close according to those that watch him closely, and with a year of work – really hard work - they believe that he can take the next step.
“He needs to keep doing what he's been doing this whole time, keep working hard,” former Buckeye center Jared Sullinger said. “Most of the time people took his spotlight because I was playing or William Buford or Aaron Craft. Nobody sees how good Deshaun really is.”
Sullinger and Buford are both taking part in the NBA Draft process after being part of a highly successful Ohio State program each of the past two seasons. They, along with the other talented players on the Buckeye roster, bought into a shared process when it came to exhibiting one's skills. Buford believes that as important as it is for players to develop individually, it is imperative for Thomas to continue to be a willing participant in the team concept throughout his junior season.
“(Deshaun's) biggest thing is getting his teammates involved,” Buford said. “This year coming up (he needs to) get his teammates involved to help him win. Everybody knows that he can score, but if he can add some more to his game I think that he'll be fine.”
Thomas was projected by some analysts to be a potential second round, perhaps late first round, draft selection. Without the guaranteed financial security of a first round slot, it is a gamble for players to turn professional. That is just one of several reasons that former Ohio State great Jimmy Jackson believes Thomas made the correct assessment for his career path.
“From Deshaun's perspective, I think that (returning) was a wise decision,” Jackson said. “He just needs to keep improving his game. His game has kind of progressed from his freshman year.”
After playing shooting guard in the NBA for 14 seasons, Jackson still resides in Columbus. However, not only does he follow his alma mater closely as a fan, he does so because he gets paid to as an analyst for the Big Ten Network.
“One of the biggest adjustments that Deshaun has made is shot discernment,” Jackson said. “That has increased his shooting percentage and he's been more effective and efficient on the court.”
As a sophomore, Thomas improved his shooting from 48 to 52 percent and sank 50 three-point shots in comparison to just 21 as a freshman. That effectiveness, as well as a legitimate effort at the defensive end of the floor, allowed Buckeye coach Thad Matta to trust Thomas more and he saw his minutes more than double from 14 per game to nearly 32 each night.
“It's just defining and basically refining the tools that he already has,” Jackson said. “He (also) needs to continue to work extremely hard and not have the lapses that he may sometimes have during the course of a game. He'll be right there as one of the top players next year.”