Thomas Excited for High-Profile Homecoming
By Brandon Castel
The last time Deshaun Thomas played a game at Assembly Hall in Indiana, he scored eight points off the bench as Ohio State routed the Hoosiers 85-67.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Things will be a lot different this trip, both for Indiana—suddenly a top-15 team in college basketball—and for Thomas—who is now a starter at Ohio State and the third-leading scorer for the Buckeyes behind William Buford and Jared Sullinger.
“It’s going to be exciting, but I’m going to keep my same focus and mindset,” said Thomas, who is averaging 15.9 points per game, having scored double-figures in every game since the season-opener against Wright State.
“I call it another day at the office. Just getting ready for practice and keep that same mindset as any other game.”
This is not “any other game,” not for Thomas, and not for the Buckeyes, who head into a much more hostile environment against a Hoosiers squad coming off its first loss of the season at Michigan State on Wednesday.
“They’re a great team,” Thomas said on the eve of Ohio State’s first road contest in the Big Ten.
“They have a great transition game. They have nice bigs inside. They have the whole package. They’re a great game. We have to make them take tough two’s and do the little things. Little things win games too.”
That is something Thomas has learned gradually during his year and a half in Columbus. He certainly didn’t know much about the little things at Bishop Luers High School in Fort Wayne, Ind.
All he knew about was scoring, and he knew it well.
Thomas became an elite scorer as a freshman, averaging nearly 30 points per game for his entire high school career. He became Bishop Luers all-time scoring leader as a sophomore, and led the entire state of Indiana in scoring as a junior and senior.
It was about that time when Thomas crossed paths with big man Cody Zeller, now a freshman at Indiana.
“My junior year of AAU, I played against him. He was young and had a lot to learn, but now I’ve seen him play in college and he got way better,” Thomas said of the 6-11 center.
“I saw him in the Indiana all star game too. He’s a big man who can run the floor and get put-backs and just do the little things. In the future he’s going to be a great player.”
That future is coming on fast.
Zeller, who is the younger brother of North Carolina senior Tyler Zeller, is already leading the Hoosiers in points (14.2) and rebounds (6.9) per game as a freshman. He was the successor to Thomas as Indiana's Mr. Basketball last season.
Zeller is coming off his worst performance of the season—four points and three rebounds—against the Spartans, but tallied 21 and eight in Indiana’s 69-58 win over Notre Dame.
“They have people who can do everything. They have drivers, they have shooters and they have a down-low presence,” Buford said.
“We just have to make it tougher on them. Make them take tough shots, get on the glass and pressure the ball a little bit to disrupt their offense.”
The Buckeyes did an excellent job of that in their Big Ten home opener against Northwestern on Wednesday. The Wildcats shot just 32 percent from the floor and looked completely off their game in an 87-54 loss at Value City Arena in Columbus.
If there is one thing Thomas learned last season while he was playing low minutes for the first time in his life, it was how tough things can suddenly become on the road.
“The Big Ten is a different place,” he said.
“On the road in the Big Ten is hard and tough. We just have to come up to the challenge. This is going to be a big game for our team.”
And for the conference, as the game features the No. 2-ranked team in the country against a traditional Big Ten powerhouse fighting to regain a foothold on the college basketball landscape.
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