Thomas Developing All-Around Skills
By Brandon Castel
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Out of the corner of his eye, Deshaun Thomas saw Dallas Lauderdale coming down the lane. It’s hard to miss Lauderdale, who stands 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot wingspan, but Thomas didn’t have to take a second glance.
He knew he had the big man for a dunk, and hit him with a perfect pass as Lauderdale threw down a two-hand slam to put the Buckeyes up 62-32 in their opening game of the NCAA Tournament.
“Oh yeah, of course, no look,” Ohio State’s freshman said with a big smile after the game.
Thomas was smiling when he said ‘of course,’ because not many people would have expected him to make that kind of pass. An expert scorer with a propensity for having a quick trigger, Thomas has developed a reputation for being a guy who can provide points off the bench when his shot is on, but not much else when it’s off.
He scored 13 points in Friday’s 75-46 win over Texas-San Antonio, but it was his eagerness to give up the ball that caught many by surprise.
“Yeah, I tried to show a little bit more of my guard skills,” said Thomas, who recorded three assists in 20 minutes, an unusually high number for him.
“In middle school or high school I used to get eight or nine assists a game, and I’m just trying to get back to those days, show people that I can really pass and not just throw a shot up.”
He’s proven he can do that.
Against Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament title game Thomas came off the bench to give the Buckeyes a lift midway through the first half. He chucked up a three that didn’t even draw iron, followed by another quick shot that didn’t go down.
Thad Matta was quick to get Thomas out of the game, but Ohio State’s coach wasn’t down on his young freshman.
“That’s something I put behind me. Coach is a good coach, he doesn’t care what kind of shots you take, he likes to get stops on defense for our offense,” Thomas said.
“I think he took me out because of the moment, that’s the way he runs his system. I wasn’t confused or anything, I just stayed humble and kept cheering for my teammates. One game he’s going to need me and I just need to be prepared.”
It’s that mentality that has helped Thomas get through his first season at Ohio State. As one of the most prolific scorers in the history of Indiana high school basketball, Thomas is used to being on the floor. He’s used to having the ball in his hands, and he’s used to putting up shots – a lot of them.
Considering they won by nearly 30 points, the Buckeyes didn’t exactly need Thomas to hit shots Friday, but there will likely come a time when they do. Although they have only lost two games all season, this is not a deep Ohio State team.
They bring Aaron Craft off the bench at the first media timeout every game and play him, basically, for the rest of the night. Dallas Lauderdale can give them some help defensively, especially if Jared Sullinger gets in foul trouble, but if they need offense off the bench it’s going to have to come from Thomas.
“I was feeling pretty good. When coach called name, he just said be ready,” Thomas said.
“I think I can help this team out a lot. I came out there and hit my first and I was just clicking from there.”
He hit his first jumper of the game at the 2:51 mark in the first half and then really got things rolling in the second half. He had been on the floor for one second when he made his first layup at the 10:17 mark, then grabbed an offensive rebound and got to the free throw line.
“That’s natural. I’ve been doing that ever since middle school,” said Thomas, who finished with eight rebounds, including four on the offensive end.
“I’m a great offensive rebounder, with put-backs and scoring the basketball.”
It all comes down to scoring for Thomas, who held up three fingers and locked eyes with senior Jon Diebler after knocking down a three to put the Buckeyes ahead by 33 at the 7:18 mark.
“We always do that in practice and every time he hits a three, I always throw it up on the bench for him,” Thomas said.
“It’s that chemistry that we’ve got going together. That’s what we do, each and every day.”
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