As expected, Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger has declared for the NBA draft. I’m not surprised by his decision. He took a physical beating in every game this season and probably decided if he was going to take that kind of abuse he may as well get paid for it. I wish him well and thank him for his fine play for the Buckeyes.
Obviously, I’m more excited about Deshaun Thomas’ decision to return to Ohio State for his junior year. This past season he went from a one-dimensional, shot-launching part-time player to a crucial part of the team that made it all the way to the Final Four. He brought so much to the table — a scorer’s mentality and creative shot-making, an inside-outside offensive game, tremendous rebounding abilities, and significantly improved defense and interior passing — and was just a lot of fun to watch. If his improvement from his sophomore to junior year is comparable his development this year, Thomas could compete for leading scorer and rebounder honors in the Big Ten next year.
Thomas, Aaron Craft, and Lenzelle Smith, Jr. give Ohio State a solid core of tested players for coach Thad Matta to build around. He’ll work to fit Shannon Scott, Amir Williams, LaQuinton Ross, Evan Ravenel, and others into the mix, and the result likely will be a team that looks different from this year’s post-oriented squad. With the athletes on the team, might the Buckeyes go up-tempo on offense and press on defense, and look for Williams to use his shot-blocking skills to erase mistakes if the press is broken? The potential options are intriguing.
I imagine that another year working in the weight room and sharpening all facets of his game would help Thomas’ NBA prospects — but I don’t know enough about the NBA to say for sure. What I do know is that Thomas’ election to come back is very welcome news for Ohio State basketball fans.