Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
It’s been almost two weeks since Ohio State men’s basketball forward Deshaun Thomas announced he is leaving early to enter the 2013 NBA Draft.
Being one of Thomas’ biggest supporters this past season, my heart sank when I heard about his decision, but it is one that I fully understand and respect.
Something that I am struggling to understand is all the so-called “experts” saying that he will not have much success at the next level.
Some say he is not quick enough to defend at an elite level and earn playing time. Some say he is too selfish and takes too many bad shots that will frustrate coaches. Some say that he is a “me first” player who will get frustrated when he does not get shots. This madness needs to stop now.
Thomas led the Big Ten in scoring this past season at 19.8 points per game and scored in double digits in every game. He shot 83 percent from the free throw line, 34 percent from behind the arc and an impressive 45 percent overall. Thomas made all of that happen while being the main scoring option on a limited offensive team and thus getting the opposing team’s best defense thrown at him every game.
Sure, sometimes he forced some outside shots that were cause for frustration and he was not as good as of a defender as some people might have liked. But when you play on the same team as junior guard Aaron Craft and sophomore guard Shannon Scott, you are never going to look as good defensively as you want.
The truth of the matter is Thomas improved the defensive part of his game immensely during his three years at OSU. He never visibly got upset when he was not getting the ball, and when his shots were not going in, he wasn’t afraid to keep firing away with confidence.
Take the NCAA tournament, for example. In both the third-round game against Iowa State and Sweet 16 matchup against Arizona, it was Craft and sophomore forward LaQuinton Ross, respectively, who made game-winning shots to help the Buckeyes advance. I will admit that I wanted Thomas to be the one with the ball in his hands at the end of the game, but after both of the shots went in, he was among the first to hug his teammates in excitement.
I’ve never seen a player who enjoys playing basketball as much as Thomas. He rarely seems to be upset and is usually smiling. I know that I am biased, but after watching the OSU episode of “The Journey” on Big Ten Network, I could not help but think that Thomas is tremendously positive and has the right outlook toward life. I think those qualities will translate well to the NBA.
At 6-foot-7, Thomas most likely will play wing in the NBA. His critics say that he is not quick enough to play on the outside and too short to play on the inside. However, Thomas possesses an exceptional mid-range jump shot and has proven that he can get it off thanks to a quick release. He also excels in isolation situations, a trait that will work well at the next level.
The topic that is rarely mentioned is how much Thomas has matured in comparison to his freshman year at OSU. For example, during the Wisconsin game in Columbus on Jan. 29, he got the ball in transition with an opportunity to try and score against three defenders. He chose instead to wait for his teammates to get down the court to set up the offense. Two years ago, Thomas might have tried to be the hero and score in that situation. Something as simple as that shows how much he has grown and how smart he is as a player.
I’m not saying that he should be a lottery pick. What I am saying is that the team that drafts him will get a player who loves the game, is willing to work hard and can score from anywhere on the court. I think he deserves to be selected in the first-round, and after going through the adjustment period that nearly every player goes through when he makes the jump from the college to professional ranks, he will be a productive player.
No matter how you feel about it now, I’m sure Thomas will be fun to watch, and I know that I will certainly be tuning in.
Eric Seger is a Big Ten Network Student U intern.