Microwave Heating Up at Right Time
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — It doesn’t take much for Deshaun Thomas to get going.
Most players need to see three or four shots go in before they really start feeling it.
Not only does the Ohio State’s streaky freshman have one of the quickest triggers in college basketball, he can also heat up faster than just about anyone. As soon as that ball hits the bottom of the net one time, he’s ready to go.
“He warms up pretty doggone quick,” OSU Head Coach Thad Matta said of the 6-foot-6 freshman, fittingly known as ‘the Microwave.’
“He warms up quick. I think with Deshaun the whole key is with what he is ready to do on the defensive end. The reads that he's making and the intensity that he's bringing there.”
Matta has been focused on his defense since Thomas got to Ohio State back in the summer. He was a prolific scorer out of Bishop Luers High School in Fort Wayne, who had very little experience with anything resembling defense.
Even now, almost every part of his game is tied to how quickly he is able to get going at the offensive end.
“When I make my first three, nine out of 10 times its going to be a good night for me,” said Thomas, who finished as the third all-time leading scorer in Indiana high school history.
“I’m going to hit shots, get rebounds and block shots. When you’re out there hitting shots you feel like you’re in the zone, like you’re just out there, just you.”
It might appear like Thomas really does think he’s alone out there at times with the way he can jack up shots, but his teammates have no problem with it as long as they’re going down.
“We see it every day at practice. Once he gets it going there's really no way to stop him, just try to keep it out of his hands,” fifth-year senior David Lighty said.
“He's been working hard every day doing other things besides just scoring that's keeping his mind right and like he said, helping us win.”
Having his mind in the right place was the most important thing for Thomas, who had been the star of his team dating back to his earliest days on the court. He went from averaging 32 points per game last year as a high school senior to playing only 15 minutes a night off the bench for the Buckeyes.
“I kept my head up. The coaches were always were always like 'Just play ball' and my time will come,” Thomas said.
“I just kept my head up to be ready when my teammates needed me. When my mindset is ready I can go out there and play with the best.”
Thomas showed that on Sunday when he came off the bench and dropped 22 points on his homestate Indiana team, including a run of 14 straight points while Jared Sullinger was on the bench with foul trouble.
“Every day at practice coach is like, you know, 'We need you Deshaun, we need you. This team needs you,’” Thomas said after going 7-of-9 from the floor.
“I just kept my head, worked hard at practice to help my teammates win ball games. Today was one of them. I'm proud of myself proud of my teammates.”
Thomas easily could have sulked after his performance at Purdue a week earlier. It certainly was abysmal enough. With his team in desperate need of a spark, Thomas clanged six shots off the rim, barely drawing iron on a wide open three attempt.
He finished with zero points in 12 minutes as the Buckeyes lost 76-63, but Thomas never got down on himself, thanks in large part to the support of his teammates and his coaches.
“To Deshaun's credit, he has never wavered. His attitude has been phenomenal. Just the work that he's putting in afterwards, or before practice, whatever it is,” Matta said.
“The good thing like I've said is that he has always practiced well. We see him make those shots in practice. The big thing for me is just to continue to hone in on the defense and really getting him to understand defensively what he needs to do.”
He only scored six points in the next contest against Illinois, but it was the way he scored them. He knocked down a big three and then grabbed an offensive rebound, got the putback and made the free throw on a three-point play.
“You’ve always got to rebound in college, that’s the biggest thing,” said Thomas, who is averaging 3.8 rebounds per game this season.
“Just offensive rebounds and getting to the right spots and hitting shots. That’s what I came down and did. I got a couple rebounds and hit some big shots when we needed it.”
That’s all it took for Thomas to get back on track. Since the Purdue game, he has made 11 of his last 17 shots from the floor, including four of his last six from behind the arc. He picked the right time of year to start heating up, as the Buckeyes prepare to enter post-season play with a tight seven-man rotation.
“We know he can do it and he knows he can do it,” Lighty said.
“It's just about what teams do against him when they're playing defense and how they're guarding us. Like he said, he got to the spots. We were penetrating and they were collapsing, and he knocked them down when we needed them.”
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