January 31, 2013

Thomas maturing into a complete player

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Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- At one point during Ohio State's 58-49 win over Wisconsin on Tuesday, Deshaun Thomas leaked out of his defensive stance and found himself with a go-ahead pass following a Buckeyes' rebound.

OSU's junior forward was in a prime position to take one of the early shots that helped him establish a reputation for himself as a gunner during the first two years of his college career. But rather than chucking up a 3-point attempt with more than 30 seconds remaining on the shot clock, the Big Ten's leading scorer simply waited for his teammates to catch up to him, and passed the ball to Buckeyes' point guard Aaron Craft.

"Nah, I couldn't do that. I saw a lot of red jerseys," Thomas said, referring the Badgers' uniforms. "That's just part of me growing up and knowing when we're up in the game, the momentum's going our way, just give it to our point guard and set up a play."

The maturation of Thomas' game has paid dividends for the Fort Wayne, Ind. native in his junior season. That was made evident in the Buckeyes' latest win, where Thomas scored 25 points- including 10 in the midst of a 15-0 run- while leading his team to its sixth win in Big Ten play.

After the game, OSU coach Thad Matta called Thomas' effort the best of his college career.

"Without a doubt, this is probably right there at the top," Matta said. "Just because of his overall effectiveness on offense and I thought he was very good defensively as well."

After missing out on potential playing time early in his career due to his apparent disdain for defense, the fact that Matta praised his effort on that end of the floor speaks volumes to just how far Thomas really has come. Matta's words were only all the more meaningful when you take into consideration that Thomas played in all 40 minutes of Tuesday's contest.

"He was exhausted the last five minutes of the game," Matta said of Thomas. "Two years he would've just completely shut down on the defensive end to save it for the offensive end, but I thought he kept defending down there."

While his defensive performance was admirable, it's on offense where Thomas still makes his mark. The former McDonald's high school All-American ranks 12th in the nation in scoring with an average of 20.3 points per game, and is doing so very efficiently, which was made evident by his 47.4 shooting percentage.

Making 10 of 17 shots against Wisconsin while only attempting a single 3-point shot attempt, Tuesday marked one of the preseason All-American's most productive efforts of the season.

"I was just in attack mode," Thomas said. "I was watching film with Coach to get to learning on the shot selection and trying to free my teammates. And what I did tonight is that I screened for them to get them open. I did the little things for my teammates and myself to help this team."

Words like that are a far cry from what we heard from Thomas early in his career, when he unapologetic about his shot selection. As was his decision not to pursue the aforementioned premature shot attempt, which impressed not only Matta, but Craft as well.

"Freshman year, he's really thinking about shooting that," Craft said. "But that's who he is, he's learning, and he's continuing to grow as a player."


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