Deshaun Thomas is one of the greatest high school athletes in northeast Indiana history, the 2010 Mr. Basketball and the only three-time winner of the Tiffany Gooden Award as the SAC's top player.
He has had an impressive career since graduating from Bishop Luers in 2010, including three seasons at Ohio State that included a trip to the Final Four. But folks in this area haven't had many opportunities to see Thomas play, even on TV, since he became a professional in 2013.
Of his 404 pro games, 357 have been played overseas.
But that will change when he plays at 4 p.m. Wednesday on ESPN in The Basketball Tournament, a $1 million, winner-take-all event. Thomas is on the roster of top-seeded Carmen's Crew, former Ohio State players who won the event last year.
Asked what's different about him since being taken by in the second round of the 2013 NBA draft by the San Antonio Spurs, Thomas said he's much savvier a player now.
“I think I'm just more mature, have more maturity right now,” said Thomas, who played last season for Panathinaikos in Athens, Greece, averaging 13.3 points and 4.3 rebounds over 48 games.
“I'm just more professional about knowing the game, when's a good shot and when's a bad shot. I think that's what everybody would say, just the maturity and understanding the game. You've got to understand when you need a stop defensively and the (important) moments. That's come with maturity and playing with a lot of older guys over there in Europe.”
Thomas, 28, played one season in the U.S. for the Austin Spurs in the G League in 2015-16, averaging 14.7 points and 6.2 rebounds. He appeared in a couple of NBA preseason games that year and also has 16 NBA Summer League games on his résumé, but he's become a staple of overseas basketball with teams in Greece, Israel, Turkey, Spain and France.
He's expected to be one of Carmen's Crew's pivotal players against House of Paign, able to use his 6-foot-7 size and shooting touch to help a roster that includes Aaron Craft, William Buford, Jon Diebler and David Lighty.
“It's perfect for us (to have Thomas). It's great for us. That's a nightmare for opponents, for sure,” Lighty said. “You have to pick your poison. Just imagine, you've got a shooter, Diebler, in the corner. You've got a shooter, Buford, in the corner. And you've got Deshaun Thomas in a pick-and-roll up top. What are you going to do?
“You've got to pick which one you're going to give up, basically. He can do so many different things and it helps everyone's game; it opens up things for everyone.”
Although TBT normally has 64 teams competing for $2 million, this year's event was cut to 24 teams. Carmen's Crew had a first-round bye and is among the final 16 teams.
There are other Fort Wayne connections still in the tournament: Men of Mackey is managed by Ryan Kay of Fort Wayne and has former IPFW player Frank Gaines; and Stephan Hicks, who was with the Mad Ants last season, helped Armored Athlete on Sunday defeat Power of the Paw, which had the Mad Ants' JaKeenan Gant.
Other commitments prevented Thomas from playing with Carmen's Crew in the past, so this will be his first real taste of TBT. It'll be a strange one with the teams quarantined and no spectators, robbing Carmen's Crew of what would have been a home-court advantage in Columbus, Ohio.
“It's a little different, but the good thing is being around the guys for these 10 days,” Thomas said. “I've been missing for a while, but it's been good this summer to catch up with them and be around them. It's always love, no matter what. You may go away for a couple years, but you come back here with this group of guys, it's always love and always the same.”