Thursday, October 27, 2011


Deshaun Thomas
AP/Terry Gilliam
PARK RIDGE, Ill. — Ohio State head coach Thad Matta is encouraged by what he has seen in the early stages of what hopes to be a championship run for his Buckeyes' men's basketball team this season.

It started this offseason with his squad putting in the long hours in the weight room with the goal of elevating their bodies to 'championship' levels. It's been much publicized recently that the Buckeyes' biggest star, sophomore forward Jared Sullinger, has tightened up his frame by dropping 10 to 15 pounds ... but he is certainly not the only one who has cut the fat this season.

Sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas, who played last year at 229 pounds, is coming into this season at a slim 214.

"I've been extremely pleased with him maybe more than anybody with the strides he's made this offseason." Matta said of Thomas.

There was more than just weight loss that had Coach Matta beaming when talking about Thomas' progress.

"He's really developed a keen awareness of what the little things in the game of basketball can do for him, be it an extra pass, offensive rebounding position," Matta said. "He's seeing things better defensively."

Thomas should greatly increase his minutes (14.0) and points per game (7.5) from last season.

This year's Ohio State squad may have shed some pounds but they definitely haven't lost their hunger, and they're led by a man who understands how to keep his team focused despite all the preseason hype.

"Probably one of the toughest years of coaching I ever had was coming off a 35-win season and playing for the national championship," Matta said. "The following year was extremely tough because I think our guys had a sense of entitlement that they were going to win basketball games, and I think that taught not only the coaches but the players a strong lesson."

FROSH TO WATCH ... A pair of freshmen are starting to show glimpses of promise in the early going of the preseason.

Shannon Scott, a 6-foot-1 point guard out of Alpharetta (Ga.), is shooting the ball extremely well in preseason practices. Compound that with his ability to find the open man, as well as a high basketball IQ, and success early on for Scott seems imminent.

"Been very, very pleased with what (Scott's) brought to the table in terms of basketball IQ for a freshman, his ability to distribute it," Matta said. "Probably the biggest surprise is how he's shot it. He's shooting the ball at a very high percentage for us."

Freshmen Sam Thompson, a 6-foot-7 forward from Chicago, is also turning heads in practice with his superior athleticism.

"He's probably the best athlete that I've ever coached." Matta said.

The Buckeyes begin the 2011-12 regular season on Friday Nov. 11 against Wright State. They will play an exhibition game Sunday Nov. 6 against Walsh.

Both games will be played at Value City Arena.