Cody Cousino / Multimedia editor
Deshaun Thomas’s role keeps changing for Ohio State’s basketball team.
The junior forward was one of the top recruited players in the nation during his senior year at Bishop Luers High School in Indiana, but was mostly a bench player during the 2010-11 season, averaging 7.5 points per game on 47.9 percent shooting in 14 minutes a game.
The next year, his role evolved as he emerged as a key cog in the Buckeyes’ offensive attack, averaging 16 points per game on 52 percent shooting. He also led all Buckeyes with 19.2 points per game during the team’s run to the 2012 Final Four.
But Thomas’s role is only expected to expand for his junior year and he’s starting to get the hardware to prove it. On Aug. 29, The Blue Ribbon College Basketball yearbook announced that it named Thomas a preseason All-American.
“(The award) feels great, especially since I found out that I’m an all-American by Blue Ribbon on my 21st birthday,” Thomas said. “It lets you know what people think about you and how hard you work to get at that position.”
Thomas said he understands more will be expected from him this season, but at the same time his expectations for himself will be bigger than those who analyze him.
“I expect to do a lot,” Thomas said. “To help my teammates win, and do the little things to help them win. It’s going to be all work and dedication.”
Thomas, along with fellow junior point guard Aaron Craft, have the same goals as last year, which is to get back to the Final Four and bring home a championship to his school.
“The goals don’t change from year to year. The guys change, the personnel changes, maybe the coaches change, but the goals don’t really change,” Craft said. “The goals are always the same, which is to become the best basketball team that we can be, and play our best basketball when we need to.”
Many thought Thomas was going to be part of the personnel change Craft mentioned. After the season, Thomas considered declaring for the NBA Draft, but ultimately said the people around OSU’s program kept him in Columbus.
“The fans and the people who run this stadium, who run this program, I’m going to miss them,” Thomas said. “They treat us like family, and being with my teammates has been great.”
Craft said he’s just happy that Thomas is still on campus.
“Not a lot of people get the chance to know him at a personal level and get to be around him enough to know that he is much more than just a basketball player,” Craft said. “I am just really glad DT is still here, and we can have some fun this year.”
Thomas said he worked hard in the offseason to improve his game and to become the player his team needs him to be.
“I just try to get better, knowing the weaknesses of my game,” Thomas said. “I worked hard on my ball-handling skills, and to be in the best shape that I can be in.”
For Thomas, working on his game has been paying dividends, as other people are noticing how dangerous of a player he can be. His teammates have also seen the maturity in Thomas, and how much he has improved since he first stepped on the court.
“People know Deshaun has a scorer-first mentality, but Deshaun is a great basketball player,” said OSU senior forward Evan Ravenel. “He has gotten a lot better since he’s been here, just more understanding of the game of basketball.”
Craft added that Thomas has taken his game to another level while simultaneously growing as a person.
“The growth happens off the floor as well, I mean, stuff with school and how seriously he takes that now,” Craft said, “and to see him grow into a man, it’s been awesome to see that growth.”
The Buckeyes will play their first game in style – a contest against Marquette on Nov. 9 atop the retired USS Yorktown battleship in the Carrier Classic in Mt. Pleasant, S.C.
“Oh yeah, we looking forward to playing on some water, you know, a little battleship,” Thomas said. “We got a couple of people who are scared of a boat, but we’re going to get through that fear. I ain’t going to say his name, but it’s going to be fun and a great experience.”
Two games that Thomas said he is looking forward to this year are against Kansas and Duke.
“We know that (Kansas) beat us last year in the Final Four, so we’re going to be amped up and ready to go,” Thomas said.
Asked why he is excited to play against Duke, Thomas had one answer: coach Mike Krzyzewski.
“Yeah it’s because of Coach K, I mean he coached the USA team, and he is one of the best coaches in college basketball,” Thomas said.
Thomas said he would be ready for the NBA, but that answer won’t be known until much later into the year.
“You know, if God’s willing, if it comes down to that, to me to make that decision, I’ll be happy and go,” Thomas said. “That’s every kid’s dream. I feel like I would be mentally ready and skill ready. All I have to do is keep staying at it, stay in the gym, believe in myself and the sky is limit.”