Bob Hunter commentary: Thomas is very good at making bad shots

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
High Contrast Normal Version

LOS ANGELES — In one sentence, Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall might have described the basketball high-wire act called Deshaun Thomas better than anyone. He also made sure to preface his depiction of the Ohio State scoring star by saying that he meant it as a compliment.

“He’s a bad shot-taker and a bad shot-maker,” Marshall said. “That is hard to do. But that’s how talented he is. He can take bad shots and make them. What we’ve got to do is make him take bad shots and hopefully miss a great majority of them.”

It’s an intriguing idea, in part because where Thomas is concerned, no one seems exactly certain what a bad shot is. Thomas smiled and stammered when he was asked if he could define a bad shot, saying, “that’s a good question” the first time he was asked and “that’s a hard question” when he was asked again a few minutes later.

“Sometimes I’ll take bad shots,” he said, “but then even to myself it’s, ‘Hey! That shot went in.’ ”

His best answer, in about four stabs at the question: “A bad shot is me trying to force it. Trying to drive in and throw my shoulder into a lot of people or taking a challenged shot.”

There are a lot of those, though, and there are likely to be some tonight when the Buckeyes meet the Shockers with a second consecutive appearance in the Final Four on the line for OSU.But the fact that he makes a lot of shots that others don’t really does complicate things.

Ohio State coach Thad Matta cracks that “a lot of it, I’m like all of you. If it goes in, it’s a great shot. If it doesn’t, it’s a bad shot.” But he is only half-joking. If Thomas forces a shot up through a tangled web of defensive bodies and scores, the basket counts the same as an open 12-footer created by a well-executed offense.

“He’s an NBA guy,” Marshall said. “He makes shots. The NBA, they have 24 seconds, and they clear it out, and they have those lines and it’s one-on-one. … Sometimes Cleanthony Early and some of (our) guys try those shots, but (Thomas) is the guy who can make those shots, and that’s why he’ll play at that level.”

Recent games are proof of that. As some of his teammates have started to flourish offensively during the Buckeyes’ three NCAA Tournament games, Thomas has gotten more room and better shots. He is also being more selective, which for him isn’t easy.

His teammates kid him about his shot selection. When a reporter asked any of the Ohio State starters if they would like to comment on Marshall’s “bad shots” comment and Thomas’ shot selection, junior guard Aaron Craft smirked and said, “I would love to start with that one.” But after everyone in the room laughed, including Thomas, Craft lavished him with praise.

“Deshaun has probably taken more of those shots that you’re really hoping he doesn’t take,” he said. “But he has a knack of putting the ball in the bucket. Even if he misses those shots, he usually finds a way to get the ball again on an offensive rebound.

“It’s tough to get angry at him. There are times when you get him to relax and understand situations and things like that, but he’s going to do what he does. He does a phenomenal job of taking the ones that we need him to take and he puts the ball in the bucket.”

In the past three games, Thomas has shot 7 of 14, 8 of 14 and 8 of 12, figures that indicate that he is shooting less and making more. That doesn’t mean he won’t have what teammate Lenzelle Smith Jr. described as “one of those Deshaun moments,” though.

“In his defense,” Smith said, “it’s kind of hard to say what is a bad shot for Deshaun because there are so many times you are saying, ‘No, don’t shoot that shot,’ and then you see the net go swish. And you’re like, ‘Well, shoot it again the next time.’ It’s kind of hard to say what’s a bad shot for Deshaun.”

It might be the one that gets the Buckeyes to the Final Four.

Bob Hunter is a sports columnist for The Dispatch.

bhunter@dispatch.com

@dailyhunter

Comments

Please Share Your Zip Code

To listen to 97.1 The Fan or ESPN 1460AM we ask that you provide a zip code so that we may give you the best audio connection possible.

Please enter your zip code:

No thanks