COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Last week's announcement that Deshaun Thomas is entering the 2013 NBA Draft brought an end to one of the most entertaining careers in Ohio State history. The Buckeyes forward was never short on words during his three seasons in Columbus, but certainly provided fans and media members alike with enough memorable moments to back them up.
With that in mind, here's a look at five of the top moments from Thomas' Ohio State career, which saw him play an integral role in 94 wins, two regular season conference titles, two Big Ten Tournament championships, three Sweet 16s, and one Final Four appearance.
March 22, 2012. Sweet 16: Ohio State vs. Cincinnati
Statistically, Thomas had played better games. He'd even go on to play in more important games. But you'd be hard-pressed to find a more meaningful game to Thomas in his three-year career at Ohio State.
Playing in the Sweet 16 on the same day that his son, Deshaun Jr., was born, the then sophomore led the Buckeyes with 24 points and six rebounds in an 81-66 win over Cincinnati in Boston, Mass. in the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16. He may have been more than 770 miles away from a special moment back home, but Thomas has already prepared his answer for when Deshaun Jr. asks him where he was on the day that he was born.
"It was kind of hard, the mother was kind of sad about it but she understands what it takes and the business side of it," Thomas said. "One day when we get to talking and he asks that question, 'Dad, was you there?' or something like that, I'll be like, 'Son, I was there in spirit. I had a great game against Cincinnati, 24 points, and it was all for you.'"
December 17, 2011. Ohio State at South Carolina
Thomas' coming out party couldn't have come at a better time for the then second-ranked Buckeyes. Playing on the road against South Carolina, Ohio State found itself not only trailing the Gamecocks at halftime, but was without star forward Jared Sullinger, who left the game with a foot injury.
Now Ohio State's top offensive option for the first time in his short career, Thomas rose to the occasion, scoring a career-high 30 points, 20 of which came in the second half. The sophomore's effort led the Buckeyes to a 74-66 victory, and provided more than a glimpse into just what the former McDonald's High School All-American is capable of offensively.
"It was a huge lift," OSU guard Aaron Craft said at the time. "When Deshaun gets his confidence, he's going to knock down shots, and that's a big key to our offense."
January 22, 2011. Ohio State at Illinois
Averaging just 14 minutes per game, Thomas' freshman season didn't possess near as many highlights as his sophomore and junior years did, but he still managed to make his impact felt on an Ohio State team that went 34-3 while advancing to the Sweet 16.
Perhaps the most important moment for Thomas during his debut season came during the Buckeyes' Jan. 22 trip to Champaign, Ill. With a 19-0 record in tow, the top-ranked Buckeyes found themselves trailing the Fighting Illini midway through the second half. Making the most of his minutes, Thomas fueled a 13-4 OSU run, scoring all eight of his points while giving the Buckeyes the final advantage in what was ultimately a 73-68 victory.
Other memorable moments from the Fort Wayne, Ind. native's freshman year came few and far between, but on that Saturday afternoon in Illinois, he provided the instant offense that he was expected to during the 2010-11 season.
March 24, 2013. NCAA Tournament third round: Ohio State vs. Iowa State
Most will recall that it was Craft's buzzer-beating three-pointer that moved the Buckeyes past the Cyclones and to a fourth consecutive Sweet 16 last month. But those who truly remember the game know that Craft's heroic shot may not have been possible without an unlikely defensive highlight by Thomas.
With the score tied at 75 with less than a minute remaining in the game, Iowa State had possession until Melvin Ejim tried to find a cutting Georges Niang. That was when Thomas- not usually known for his defensive efforts- recognized the play, and deflected the ball into the hands of Ohio State forward Sam Thompson.
The steal that Thomas set up was enough to give the Buckeyes the final possession of the game, where Craft waved off Thomas to hit a shot over Niang to give Ohio State a 78-75 victory in Dayton, Ohio.
"It is not what I am known for but my years of being here, I take (pride) in defense and I work really hard on it and I am going to remember that stop for a long time," Thomas said.
March 16, 2013. Big Ten Tournament semifinal: Ohio State vs. Michigan State
Thomas had struggled all afternoon, but when the Buckeyes needed him most, he came through in the clutch.
Playing in the 2013 Big Ten Tournament's semifinal against Michigan State, Thomas had trouble finding his stroke against the Spartans, posting a just a 6-of-19 shooting performance from the field. Thanks to 20 points from Craft, the Buckeyes held a two-point advantage with 32 seconds remaining and possession of the ball. Rather than feeding the hot hand in Craft, OSU coach Thad Matta turned to Thomas, who hit a jumper to ice the game and send Ohio State to the tournament's championship game with a 61-58 victory.
"When we needed one, he got it," Matta said.
That seemed to be a common theme in Thomas' college career.