Though the Ohio State basketball team returns most of the roster that advanced to the this year’s NCAA Tournament Elite Eight, the Buckeyes will be forced to replace perhaps their most key player.
Deshaun Thomas, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, has opted to forgo his senior season and declare for the NBA Draft.
“My three years at Ohio State have been the best years of my life,” Thomas said. “I have grown tremendously as an individual and as a basketball player. I intend to return to finish my degree, but I believe that now is the best opportunity to pursue my dream and begin my career as a professional basketball player.”
After averaging 19.2 points per game in the NCAA Tournament a year ago, Thomas was the subject of speculation that asserted he had already played well enough to forgo the final two years of his collegiate eligibility to pursue the NBA.
Thomas, however, opted to return to Ohio State for what most assumed would be one final year in college.
During his junior season, he led the Big Ten in scoring with 19.5 points per game and became a candidate for the conference’s player of the year.
Then Thomas got right back to work in the NCAA Tournament. In four games in this year’s Big Dance, he averaged 22.3 points per game and shot 50.0 percent from the floor (30 for 60). This time, though, the junior’s heroic efforts weren’t enough to help Ohio State advance to the Final Four.
“It hurts,” Thomas said after OSU’s Elite Eight loss to Wichita State. “We tried to repeat getting to the Final Four, but we had a heck of a season. We won the Big Ten tournament, the best conference in the world in my eyes. But (the Wichita State game) was a tough loss.”
Thomas’ decision wasn’t as open-and-shut as it seemed before the season.
That’s because the Buckeyes return everyone except senior center Evan Ravenel, and if Thomas elected to return, OSU would have likely become a preseason favorite to contend for a national championship next season.
And the reasons Thomas opted to return after his sophomore season remain true today, particularly when gauging where experts project the forward would likely be selected in this year’s NBA draft.
Draft websites forecast Thomas to be an early to mid-second round selection. His ability to score from a variety of places on the floor makes him an attractive prospect, but there’s concern about his overall athleticism and defensive ability.
But after Thomas talked it over with head coach Thad Matta, the two agreed that moving onto professional basketball was the best move for the forward.
“To see Deshaun grow into the man he has become has been amazing,” Matta said. “His accomplishments on the floor speak for themselves but I am just as proud of him and what he has done off the floor.
“We recruited him offering the opportunity to grow as a person and player and that is exactly what happened. I know there is much more in-store for him in the future and I am proud to have been able to coach him.”
Thomas finished his career No. 9 on Ohio State’s all-time scoring list with 1,630 points and helped the Buckeyes advance to the Final Four, Elite Eight and a Sweet 16 in three seasons. His 733 points scored last season was third-most in OSU history.
“I will always be a Buckeye and am blessed to be a part of the Ohio State University family,” Thomas said.
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