Deshaun Thomas Has “Great Memories” of His Time at Ohio State and is “Still Getting Buckets” As He Begins His 11th Professional Season

By Josh Poloha on August 23, 2023 at 10:10 am
Deshaun Thomas

Shooters shoot. That's the internationally known saying, right?

While Deshaun Thomas has traveled all over the world playing the game he has always loved since leaving Ohio State and being selected in the 2013 NBA Draft, one thing has remained consistent: He's still getting buckets.

Heading into his 11th season overseas, the former Buckeye has played on a number of different teams – JSF Nanterre (France), FC Barcelona (Spain), Anadolu Efes (Turkey), Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel), Panathinaikos (Greece), Toyota Alvark (Japan), FC Bayern (Germany) and Olimpia Milano (Italy) – helping each of them win by being a prolific scorer every step of the way.

"I’m still getting buckets, doing what I do," Thomas told Eleven Warriors. "Still loving the game and playing with a passion."

As his career continues, the soon-to-be 32-year-old has enjoyed his journey playing the game he loves, even if it wasn't the one he originally imagined for himself. His longevity, ability to play at a high level for so long and playing for so many different teams with so many teammates is something he is extremely grateful for.

"This is Year 11 for me playing on a few different teams. It’s been something special," Thomas said. "Obviously, I’ve played in a bunch of great places  – Barcelona, Paris, Israel, Turkey, Germany, Greece (for two years), Japan, Italy and now going back to Barcelona. The thing that stands out to me is the culture shock. Good people, good food. I’ve had some great teams and one of the best teams I’ve had was in Greece and was one of my best years and I’ve played with some great players.

"It’s been a blessing and I hope it can continue as long as I can and those opportunities come."

Looking back, Thomas will never forget the moment he was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs with the 58th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. With his family and friends by his side when he heard his name, it was a night Thomas will never forget.

"It felt great to get drafted by the Spurs," he said. "It wasn’t the high pick I wanted to be because I thought I was going to be a late-first-round pick but out of the millions of people that hope to get drafted one day, being one of the 60 that were drafted in 2013, that was something special and I can have that on my resume forever."

Thomas certainly isn't the only one who has experienced playing both in the United States and overseas, specifically in the EuroLeague. Among the many teammates he has had, the sharpshooter has teamed up with former Buckeyes David Lighty and Othello Hunter. With so much experience playing basketball in the United States and overseas, he believes there are some major differences between the NBA and EuroLeague.

"It’s very competitive overseas and very tough," Thomas said. "Defensively, there's no three-second violation rule and everyone just sits in the paint. In the States, there’s a lot more open space that allows guys to move more freely and do what they have to do and go by defenders. Also in Europe, they have rules where you can hit the ball after it hits the backboard or the rim.”

“I’m still getting buckets, doing what I do. Still loving the game and playing with a passion.”

He also says star players taking games off is a thing that doesn't happen in Europe because every single game matters in the regular season, compared to the NBA where star players take regular-season games off at times – labeled as “load management” – due to it being an 82-game regular season that spans from late October to mid-April that includes 3-4 (and even five, at times) games per week. And then the NBA playoffs until mid-June.

Comparatively, Thomas' Olimpia Milano team played 65 games last season, one that spanned from early October to early May.

"Every game counts. In the NBA, it’s such a long season with so many games that you see some guys taking some games off," he said. "In Europe, every game counts and every game matters. The competitiveness is just so crazy and it’s really physical."

Another major difference: NBA players can earn plenty of money off the court in endorsements and sponsorships. For example, LeBron James will earn a little over $47.6 million on the court this season. Off the court, the star will earn more than $55 million this year, money that James will continue to earn due to his notoriety even if his team, the Los Angeles Lakers, wasn't winning games. Overseas, a player must continue to win in order to earn more money off the court.

“It’s all about winning (overseas), unlike the NBA,” Thomas said. “In the NBA, a lot of people get paid and are successful off of individual goals and overseas you have to keep winning in order to keep building your market and stay at the highest level.”

In the back half of his professional career, the 6-foot-7 forward's most productive season came in 2020-21 with Toyota Alvark. He averaged 16.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game while shooting 47.6% from the field and 41.2% from beyond the arc three years ago. In the EuroLeague, his best season came with FC Bayern in 2021-22, when he averaged 15.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game while shooting 53.8% from the field and 44.7% from long distance.

His favorite memory of playing overseas also happened during that season in Germany.

"Playing in the playoffs, I fell short in the postseason but those were the best memories," Thomas said. "The competitiveness, the dog fights. Just going out there and playing your best basketball in the playoffs.

"Two years ago when I was in Germany I played against Barcelona in the playoffs and it’s kind of funny because I went scoreless in Game 1 and then came back and dropped 25 and seven in Game 2. I just believed in myself and kept playing and kept fighting and it was just a great feeling to bounce back and play well in the playoffs. Came up short but playing through that and playing like that were some great memories while competing at the highest level."

While that was Thomas' favorite memory in his professional career, he says his proudest individual accomplishment is finishing as a top-10 scorer in the league and being named an All-Star while playing in Greece. Even more, though, he's proud of his longevity while continuing to be a prominent player in the EuroLeague.

"Playing for this long at the highest level of the EuroLeague is a great accomplishment. That consistency goes a long way. Now I’m just trying to get over the hump and win a Final Four in Europe," Thomas said. "Everything else – the respect, the love, the consistency – that I have that people know, I’m trying to get to the next level."

Thomas is set to play for Club Joventut Badalona this upcoming season, returning to Spain, where he spent the 2014-15 season (with Barcelona).

Even though he left Ohio State 10 years ago, being a Buckeye for three seasons is something he will never forget. A part of some really good teams, the Buckeyes won 34, 31 and 29 games, respectively, in Thomas' three years donning the scarlet and gray. OSU has not won more than 25 games in a season since then.

Thomas will always cherish his time at Ohio State. It's one of the many reasons why he still calls the Columbus area home.

"Getting to the Final Four (in 2012), that was something special," Thomas said while reminiscing about his college days. "Going on that run like that and being part of something like that was amazing. When everyone was on your side – the school, the fans, friends and family – and you’re grinding out there, that March Madness was special.

"I have great memories. Watching people jump into Mirror Lake during Michigan Week. The tradition and everyone is so passionate about beating Michigan, those are the great memories. Seeing everybody walking on campus, whether it was in the summer’s heat or winter’s cold, people just being excited about Ohio State and seeing the smiles on people’s faces every day while trying to achieve their goals was special."

Over the past two summers, Thomas has spent part of his time back in the States hosting a youth camp in his hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana, allowing young hoopers to play some organized basketball while being instructed by the former Buckeye.

About to turn 32 with a family that includes his wife (Jasmine) and three boys (Deshaun Jr., Jayce and Mason), being away from home – let alone overseas – for 10 months out of the year over the last 11 years has started to catch up to Thomas. While he loves that he has continued to provide for his family by playing professionally, dad time is something he truly misses, and he takes advantage of being with them every time he is home or his family visits him in Europe.

"Having three boys and being away from them 10 months out of the year while only seeing them twice is very challenging," Thomas said. "But this is what we do. We provide as men and make sure our kids have a better life than you have. But being home with them every summer and when they come visit me overseas and see me, it’s daddy time and I become locked in all the way.

"Now my older son is into sports so my whole summer is very, very busy, but that’s part of being a dad and I look forward to those summers. My second son is also into sports now so when it’s daddy time, it’s daddy time and I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for it. I love it and it’s always good to be catching up with my three boys when I’m home during the summer.”

Although he misses dad time with his wife and boys, Thomas thinks he has at least a few more years left in the tank before he decides to hang it up. Whenever his professional basketball career ends, however, Thomas is looking forward to being back in the States for good, especially once his oldest son – who currently plays baseball, basketball and football – gets to high school, because watching his sons play the game that they love (and that he has always loved) is more important to him than anything else.

"As long as the checks don’t stop coming," he said. "I really don’t know, it just depends on how long the body holds up. Realistically, playing until I’m 34 and even 35 would be great. If the opportunity presents itself and it makes sense, then I’ll continue to play.

"I have a son that’s 11 years old and will be in high school in a few years so I have to think about stuff like that but I really can’t put a timetable on it. Whatever the body can hold and whenever is the right time for me and my family to be done."

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