Thomas to return to Buckeyes

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Last updated: 04/06/2012 6:15 PM

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Men's Basketball
Deshaun Thomas Makes Buckeyes Formidable in 2012-13
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — On Wednesday, Ohio State basketball coach Thad Matta sat next to his star big man during Jared Sullinger’s NBA announcement press conference.

Deshaun Thomas
Photo by Jim Davidson
Deshaun Thomas

At one point, Matta jokingly asked reporters when the day was going to come that someone wanted to make coach Matta happy. He had a giant smile on his face, knowing that Sullinger had already given the Buckeyes two good years when he made his decision to turn pro following his sophomore season.

Matta may not have felt quite as good sitting next to Deshaun Thomas had he come to a similar conclusion following his sophomore season in Columbus, but the Fort Wayne, Ind. native announced Friday that he will return for his junior season with the Buckeyes.

“We have a great team returning next season and I want to be a part of another championship run,” Thomas said in a statement.

“My family, my coaches and I looked at my future as a professional, but I love being a Buckeye and want to continue my education and development as a player and as a person at Ohio State.”

With Sullinger and William Buford gone, Thomas will be the top returning scorer and rebounder from Ohio State’s Final Four team that finished 31-8 in 2011-12. The 6-7 forward averaged 15.9 points and 5.4 rebounds for the Buckeyes this past season, but became the team’s No. 1 scoring threat for much of the NCAA Tournament.

Thomas averaged over 22 points per game in the first four rounds of the tournament before struggling with foul trouble in the team’s 64-62 loss to Kansas down in New Orleans.

It might have been enough for Thomas to play his way into the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft, which is why he had Matta look into his draft potential after the Kansas loss.

“Deshaun, his family and our coaching staff have spent the last week evaluating his future,” Matta said Friday.

“Deshaun determined he wants to remain a Buckeye. We are looking forward to building on the success our team enjoyed in 2011-12 with Deshaun playing a significant role next year.”

Ohio State has won 65 games with Thomas’ contributions over the last two seasons, although he did not become a key contributor for the Buckeyes until his sophomore season.

The No. 3 all-time leading scorer in Indiana high school basketball history, Thomas averaged only 7.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in 14 minutes off the bench as a freshman. He scored 13 points in the team’s opening-round victory over Texas-San Antonio last year, but played only three minutes in the Sweet 16 loss to Kentucky.

Thomas took the place of departed senior David Lighty in the starting lineup this season, and quickly became Ohio State’s No. 2 scoring option behind Sullinger. He averaged 15.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 52 percent from the floor and 35 percent from behind the arc.

Considering the dramatic improvement he made from his first year at Ohio State to year No. 2 in Columbus, Thomas could emerge as one of the premier players in the Big Ten next season.

Only six players in the Big Ten averaged more points per game than Thomas this past season, and all but two of them were seniors—Penn State’s Tim Frazier and Northwestern’s Drew Crawford.

Thomas should also be among the top rebounders in the conference next season after finishing tied for 11th this year, especially considering at least six of the players ahead of him will be gone—including Sullinger, Draymond Green, Meyers Leonard and Robbie Hummel.

His return won’t make the Buckeyes favorites to repeat as Big Ten champions again next year, but it will certainly put Matta and his team in contention. Along with Thomas, Ohio State returns point guard Aaron Craft and shooting guard Lenzelle Smith, Jr. from this season’s starting lineup.

Matta could go a number of directions with the other two spots in the lineup, but it seems likely either Sam Thompson or LaQuinton Ross will replace Buford at small forward. Sullinger’s starting spot could go to senior-to-be Evan Ravenel or second-year big man Amir Williams.

That is, of course, if the Buckeyes fail to land a big time prospect such as Tony Parker in the class of 2012. The 6-9 Parker is considered to be one of the top high school big men in the country, but he’s also considering Duke, UConn, Georgetown, Kansas and UCLA among others.

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