Thinking Out Loud about Deshaun’s Big Decision and the 2012 Buckeyes
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State forward Deshaun Thomas made an important decision Friday—both for himself and for the immediate future of the OSU basketball program.
His decision to return for his junior season in Columbus changes the entire landscape of the 2012-13 season for the Buckeyes, and likely for the Big Ten. All of that had me Thinking Out Loud…
About Deshaun’s Impact…
1. Deshaun’s return could make the Buckeyes a top 10 team heading into next season. Jeff Goodman, a Senior Basketball Writer at CBSSports.com, tweeted that Deshaun’s decision to return makes the Buckeyes a top 10’ish team for next season.
Photo by Jim Davidson
2. It’s hard to imagine 10 better teams in college basketball heading into next season, especially considering everything Thad Matta has accomplished in his tenure at Ohio State. Rarely have the Buckeyes had a down year, even with all the talent they have lost early to the NBA.
3. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Matta pull off the upset by landing Tony Parker, the 6-9 forward out of Georgia who is rated as a 5-star center by both Rivals.com and Scout.com.
4. Parker is making his college decision this week, and while he still has a lot of teams on his list—Duke, UConn, UCLA and Kansas among them—the timing almost seems suspicious considering Sullinger’s recent decision.
5. He and Sullinger had formed a relationship during the recruiting process, and Sullinger was supposedly attempting to sell Parker on the idea of replacing him in the middle of Matta’s lineup in Columbus.
6. Even if Parker decides to go elsewhere—right now nobody really knows where he is leaning—the Buckeyes should still be a top 10 team to start the season. NBC Sports has them rated as the No. 5 team in their “too early” preseason top 25 for next year, and that was after Sullinger made his decision to turn pro.
7. The return of Thomas gives the Buckeyes the elite scorer they will need to contend for a Big Ten title next season. They are probably still behind Indiana—and probably Michigan now that the Wolverines have found a way to keep Trey Burke while also adding Mitch McGary.
8. It's not crazy to think Thomas could lead B1G in scoring/rebounding next season, though we should probably wait and see how much space he gets without Sullinger on the floor.
9. Matta said Wednesday that everyone will see how much better Sullinger made OSU’s bigs this year. Ideally, he’s referring to the development of Evan Ravenel and Amir Williams, but he could also be talking about the attention Sullinger took from Thomas when they were on the floor together.
About Deshaun’s Game…
Photo by Jim Davidson
1. Thomas was being projected as a second round pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. That’s not high enough for him to risk coming out, especially when he could be a guaranteed first rounder and potential lottery pick with another year at the college level.
2. There are no certainties in sports, and it’s possible Thomas could actually struggle in the absence of Sullinger. He already has a tendency to have tunnel vision where he forgets there are four other players on the court wearing the same jersey he is.
3. We saw that at times even this season, where he would start jacking up shots, even if he didn’t have a great look at the basket. It happened in the second half of the Kansas game for sure, after Thomas sat on the bench for such a long time with foul trouble.
4. The key to controlling that tunnel vision is continuing to build the trust between Thomas and his teammates and coaches. It is only through that trust that coach Matta can ultimately harness it into a positive approach that will make him one of the most dangerous scorers in the country.
5. Thomas has to believe his teammates are there to help him and vice-versa. He has to realize that passing up a good shot to get Lenzelle Smith or Sam Thompson a better one means he will be a little bit more open the next time he touches the ball.
6. If they can get Thomas to believe that every time he takes the floor, this kid is gifted enough at the offensive end to put Ohio State back in the running for a Big Ten championship, not to mention another long tournament run.
7. Thomas averaged nearly 12 shot attempts per game as a sophomore, or one shot every 2.6 minutes he was on the floor. He averaged 31.4 minutes per game this year, but should be closer to 40 next year as he becomes the focal point of the OSU offense.
8. That alone should boost his shot attempts to over 15 a game. At 52%, that could make Thomas one of the leading scorers in Big Ten next season, especially if he improves his three point (34.5%) shooting and free throw (75%) shooting.
9. Now imagine taking away nearly 25 shot attempts per game. That was the combined number for Sullinger and Thomas, who accounted for over 1,200 of Ohio State’s 2,800 points in 2011-12.
10. The key for Thomas is, and always will be, taking smart shots. That was the area that improved the most over the latter half his sophomore season. He learned how to find his spots on the floor and how to be ready when he was in the right position.
11. His offensive rebounding always gives him a chance to score, regardless of who is shooting the ball or what’s happening in the game. He and Sullinger were often battling with each other for loose rebounds at the offense ends, but let’s not underestimate how opposing teams were unwilling to leave Sullinger alone at any moment.
12. If Thomas can learn to rebound at the defensive end, he could improve from 5.4 rebounds a game as a sophomore to double-digit boards as a junior. Only Sullinger (116) grabbed more offensive rebounds than Thomas (100) among Big Ten players this past season.
13. While he had only 16 more offensive rebounds than Thomas, Sullinger more than doubled his frontcourt mate at the defensive end (224-109). That has to change if Thomas is going to become a truly elite player, and a potential lottery pick in next year’s NBA Draft.
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