LOS ANGELES — An answer from Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall on how to defend Ohio State star forward Deshaun Thomas sent reporters into a frenzy.
Marshall described Thomas’ abilities with what he insisted was a compliment.
"He’s a bad-shot taker and a bad-shot maker," Marshall said.
After that, everyone wanted to know what Thomas considered a bad shot. He doesn’t seem to have too much discretion in that area.
Perhaps predictably, Thomas had trouble coming up with his definition for a bad shot. Eventually, he came around to the idea that shooting while draped by multiple defenders was probably ill-advised, and forcing a shot in any situation can get him into trouble.
Admitting that might be Thomas’ first step toward selectivity. He hasn’t been putting those theories into practice often, but that hasn’t hurt the Buckeyes. Thomas scores in a variety of ways — good shots and bad shots — and at 6-foot-7 is an impossible matchup for most opponents.
"(Scoring ability) was always natural growing up," Thomas said. "Me in third grade, playing (YMCA) ball, always scoring, playing against people older, scoring against them. I always had a knack for the ball. I got in high school and had the green light. Played every position, took every shot, took every bad shot. So I had a knack for scoring the ball all my life."
Those around Ohio State’s program say Thomas has matured, that his contentment when he didn’t take either of the Buckeyes’ game-winning shots in the last two games was a sign of emotional growth.
That has carried over to Thomas’ game. He has scored in double figures in every game this season, being held below 16 points once. But while the Ohio State offense clearly goes through Thomas, he has learned to defer to teammates. With natural scoring abilities, his points will come.
Thomas has also begun to emphasize defense and rebounding, two areas for growth. After he arrived at Ohio State as a highly touted recruit two years ago, critics decried his secondary skills, saying "There’s no ’D’ in Deshaun."
"I got my ’D’ back I think now," Thomas said. "I came very far. Coming from being a scorer and having that scoring mentality in high school, kids really weren’t playing defense like that. You have to play defense, so I’ve come up a long way. I take it very seriously. I may not be that good at it, but I get the job done when my team needs it."
Playing with someone who approaches the game the way Thomas does can be frustrating for teammates, but other Buckeyes have learned to accept Thomas’s sometimes-questionable shots because he makes so many.
Frustration wouldn’t do Thomas’s teammates any good, anyway, because that won’t deter him from continuing to shoot. He has taken at least 11 shots in all but two games with a season-high of 21.
"It’s tough to get angry at him," Ohio State guard Aaron Craft said. "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 (shots) that we need him to take and he puts the ball in the bucket, so you can’t complain too much."
WSU might not have a player capable of holding Thomas down, but the Shockers have a strategy.
"He can take bad shots and make them," Marshall said. "What we’ve got to do is make him take bad shots and hopefully miss a great majority of them."