David Lighty calls him "a nightmare" for opponents. To Lenzelle Smith Jr., he’s "an all-around bucket." William Buford thinks of him as an "offensive juggernaut."
Deshaun Thomas might be a lot of things for this year’s Carmen’s Crew team in this year’s edition of The Basketball Tournament, being held in Nationwide Arena. But the Ohio State alumni team seeking a second straight TBT title is counting on Thomas to do what he has done better than all but eight players in OSU program history: score, and at a prolific level.
"They know what I’m capable of doing," Thomas said of his teammates ahead of Wednesday’s second-round game against House of ’Paign. "When I’m scoring, they know it’s a great compliment, so it’s all love."
In three seasons with the Buckeyes, the 6-foot-7 Thomas scored 1,630 points and averaged 19.8 per game during his last season in 2012-13. He left the program with a year of remaining eligibility and was drafted in the second round by San Antonio. But after playing for the Spurs in the summer league, he eventually signed to play in France.
He has since fashioned a professional career primarily overseas with the exception of the 2015-16 season, when he played for San Antonio’s G-League affiliate.
Ohio State fans watching him now will see a more mature player, he said, who has a better understanding of what is and is not a good shot.
Thomas was recruited to play for Carmen’s Crew in each of the past three years, but injuries and his wedding last year prevented his participation. This year, when LaQuinton Ross wasn’t able to play, coach Jared Sullinger scooped him up.
Thomas said he watched last year’s tournament and noticed something missing among the former Buckeyes.
"There were some moments in the game where they’d go eight trips down without scoring," Thomas said. "Watching that, I think they needed that piece that I can fit into — getting those buckets, especially with the second unit, so we won’t have dry moments."
Smith came to Ohio State in Thomas’ recruiting class, which also included Aaron Craft and Sullinger, and the two will now make their TBT debuts together.
"We’ve got shooters, we’ve got drivers, we’ve got slashers, we’ve got defenders, then you’ve got Deshaun; any pick-and-pop with him is deadly," Smith said. "Any time he has the ball by himself, he’s deadly."
Thomas also is expected to play an important role during the Elam Ending portion of the game. Under TBT rules, the clock is turned off at the first whistle with four minutes or fewer remaining in the fourth quarter. Eight points are added to the score total of the leading team, and from there the first team to reach that target score wins.
It’s an ideal scenario for a player with Thomas’ skills, which explains why as coach Sullinger was eager to add him and why Craft is excited to play with him again.
"DT hasn’t changed a bit, but he’s a better basketball player, if that makes sense," Craft said. "His overall IQ and feel for the game is better, and that’s why he’s been so successful overseas."