COLLEGE: Ohio State
VITALS: 6'7", 225 lbs.
YEAR DRAFTED: 2013 by San Antonio (Round 2, Pick 58)
RIGHTS HELD BY: San Antonio
DeShaun Thomas is the only player on this list I've had the ability to see play live. In 2012, Thomas' Ohio State Buckeyes came to the area to play one of my alma maters, the University of Rhode Island Rams. The game was not in Kingston at the Ryan Center however; it was at the Mohegan Sun Arena as part of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic. A few of us had gone to root on the Rams but we mostly went to heckle the crap out of then Buckeye Aaron Craft. We threw many a clever barb at Craft and at one juncture had our entire section ripping on OSU's pesky point man. Along with attempting to crack the point guard's psyche, we tried our damnedest to get seldom used combo guard Amedeo Della Valle (who we dubbed "The Goober") into the game. Della Valle played thirty seconds.
Ohio State was ranked fourth in the country at the time and was the main attraction of the casino's basketball showcase. Rhode Island would win just a paltry eight games all season. The Rams had Ohio State on the ropes at several points throughout the game but whenever momentum was turning in Rhody's favor, DeShaun Thomas put a stop to it right quick. It was a defensive rebound followed by a laser guided outlet pass. It was a soul-crushing offensive rebound and a strong put back lay-up. It was a three pointer with two defenders draped over him like he was at a TSA checkpoint. It was free throws to put the game out of reach. He did it all and it was with ease.
Granted URI made quite a few people look really good that year; but in the case of Thomas it was different. He was able to control the game without even being in the play. That sounds like a backhanded compliment but let me explain. He was always in the right position, not needing to overexert himself to make plays. He would calmly float out to the three point arc when given space. As soon as a shot went up, he had already mapped out the most efficient avenue to get the offensive rebound. His eyes were already looking for the receiver going deep when he'd snare a defensive board. These all seem like traits that every player has on the collegiate level but I assure you they are not. There are even some professionals that don't possess these simplistic basketball qualities.
But what else do you expect though from a former Mr. Basketball in Indiana? The state of Indiana where basketball is king, prince, and all the lords combined. Thomas averaged 30 and 14 for his four year varsity career at Bishop Luers High School. He became only the third player ever in Indiana high school basketball history to amass 3,000 career points. Along with the designation as Mr. Basketball, many other honors were bestowed upon the talented southpaw at the culmination of his high school tenure. He was named as part of the AP's All-Century Indiana team, Parade All-American team, and had his jersey retired by Bishops Luers; a first for the school.
Even though he was in Hoosier country, Thomas had committed to conference adversaries Ohio State as early as his freshman year of high school. His first year in Columbus was the team's most successful during his stay. He was part of a heralded freshman class with the aforementioned Craft, Lenzelle Smith, and current Boston Celtic Jared Sullinger. The team was led by senior Jon Diebler, who will be profiled later in this series. Thomas was the sixth man for those Buckeyes as they steamrolled to a 32-2 regular season (with a Big Ten tournament title). Ohio State was the #1 overall seed in that year's NCAA Tournament but were upset in heartbreaking fashion by eventual Final Four participant Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen.
Thomas started all 76 games he played in his sophomore and junior seasons. His points per game average doubled between his first and second years at Ohio State and got a another four point boost his third season. DeShaun cemented himself as one of the premier players in the Big Ten leading the Buckeyes to the Final Four in 2012 and Elite Eight in 2013. He could shoot. He was a halfway decent rebounder and seemed to have good basketball instincts and played in a power conference. That is what made his slide in a horrible 2013 draft that much more puzzling.
I don't think 2013 will go down in the annals as one of the worst drafts ever like the 2000 edition (see DRR #11). It however won't be one that is bantered about in a positive light for years to come. Each pick in David Stern's last rodeo felt more underwhelming than the previous one. The first round highlights were the sheer indignation surrounding Anthony Bennett's selection at #1 and #16 pick Lucas Nogueira's afro. There was no announcement of DeShaun Thomas. As current commish Adam Silver took the reigns for round two, the predictable conga line of college seniors and stashable European chips began. There were only three picks left and DeShaun Thomas was still without a home. DRR #3 Alex Oriakhi had just been taken and the Spurs were now on the clock. The shrewd Texans picked up the lefty with the 58th overall pick. Like summer league teammate and fellow DRR'er Marcus Denmon, Thomas got a five game platform in the NBA's Summer League. He started all five of those games and put up 12 points and 5 rebounds a game before signing with JSF Nanterre in France.
While he wasn't part of the Spurs plans at the time of his drafting, Thomas is a big part of the new success at Nanterre, currently having their most prosperous spell in team history. After winning the LNB A championship the season prior, Thomas and company (including former Ohio St. teammate David Lighty) won the French Cup and made the final sixteen of the Euroleague. DeShaun only started three games for the French champions but he was still able to average nearly 12 points a contest. The forward is expected to start for Nanterre going forward alongside Lighty and former URI Ram Will Daniels. On the other hand, he may be wearing silver and black for the Spurs as they make another deep playoff run in 2014-15. They do of course know what they're doing.
Thanks for reading the twelfth edition of Draft Rights Retained right here on Bleeding Your Colors! I hope you enjoyed it and look forward to bringing you more wacky stories of players who the NBA has long since forgotten, but not their draft rights. Stay locked for a new profile until the list is exhausted. For more of me, check out my Twitter @TREVORutley. For less of me, submit your computer as tribute to the Hunger Games.
Image Credits: DeShaun Thomas (zimbio.com), Spurs championship ring (sportslistoftheday.com)