Matta Excited by Deshaun’s Progress
By Brandon Castel
In what is rapidly approaching a decade at Ohio State, head coach Thad Matta has had some bad luck with guys turning pro after just one or two years in the program.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Some, like Greg Oden, were expected when Matta made the decision to recruit the dynamic 7-footer out of Indianapolis. Other, like Oden’s teammate Mike Conley Jr., were not supposed to be one-and-done type players when they arrived in Columbus.
Matta recruited two players before last season who could have easily joined Oden and Conley as one-and-done players at Ohio State. Jared Sullinger certainly had that option after he was named first-team All-America and National Freshman of the Year for the Buckeyes.
Classmate Deshaun Thomas had a similar decision to make after this past season, his sophomore year with the Buckeyes. It was a close call, but Thomas realized he wanted to enhance his game to the point where he could be more than just a role player at the next level.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“I think first and foremost, Deshaun has made the progress that you make from your freshman to your sophomore year,” Matta said of the team’s top returning scorer from a year ago.
“He changed his body (from year one to year two), he's kind of changed it again (from year two to year three). He's a lot thinner this year than he was last year. I think the light is on for him in terms of what he has to do to be a fully effective player.”
Thomas was an incredible effective, and efficient, scorer for the Buckeyes last season. Known for his quick trigger and free-wheeling style of play on offense, Thomas put the ball in the basket on more than half of his 467 field goal attempts last season.
That was the second-most shot attempts on the team, behind William Buford and ahead of Sullinger, but he also made 35 percent of his threes and 75 percent of his free throws in his first real season of action with the Buckeyes.
“He’s Deshaun, he makes shots. He shoots the ball at a very consistent rate,” teammate Lenzelle Smith, Jr. said.
“People complain that he might shoot too much, but on this team, we need it. More times than not, when we pass the ball to Deshaun and the shot goes up, it’s lets run back on defense because he scored. He’s making shots and he’s Deshaun, he’s putting the ball in the basket.”
Thomas averaged 15.9 points per game during the regular season. His scoring numbers dipped during Big Ten play, as the Buckeyes relied on Sullinger to carry them in the paint, but his stock sky-rocketed with an impressive performance in the NCAA Tournament back in March.
The former Indiana Mr. Basketball was named to the preseason all-Big Ten first time at the conference’s basketball media day in Chicago this week, but he will need to be more than just a high-volume scorer for the Buckeyes, who were tabbed as the No. 3 team in the conference behind Indiana and Michigan.
“The biggest thing that I have seen is he now has such a better understanding of the game of basketball and knowing that there is a lot of different ways that he can affect the game with his rebounding and defense,” Matta said this week.
“I've been pleased with what he's done defensively in practice thus far.”
Thomas is also working hard on some of the intangibles that he did not possess as a high school All-American – mainly teamwork, unselfishness and leadership. The Buckeyes will need all three from him this season, as he steps into the spotlight on a team that must replace 32 points a night it got from Sullinger and Buford.
“The other thing is the overall mind-set,” Matta added.
“He understands his teammates, he understands the system that we're trying to implement better and how he fits in. It's been amazing to see his attitude, just his leadership that he has provided for these guys.”
Asked about Deshaun Thomas the leader, point guard Aaron Craft said, “Yeah, that’s a real thing now.”
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