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March 31, 2013

Ross returning, Thomas will weigh options

Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

LOS ANGELES -- Merely moments after Ohio State's 2012-13 season was put to rest with a 70-66 loss to Wichita State on Saturday, the attention paid to the Buckeyes' program shifted towards the future.

Ohio State possessed just one senior this season, but the Buckeyes could sport a drastically different look when they take the court next fall. Namely, forward Deshaun Thomas will spend the coming weeks deciding whether he will return to school for his senior season, or enter the NBA Draft.

It was the same question that Thomas faced a year ago, when his breakout performance in the NCAA Tournament made him an intriguing prospect for NBA scouts and general managers. Ultimately, the 6-foot-7, 225-pounder opted to return to OSU for his junior season, where he was a first team All-Big Ten selection after leading the league in scoring with 19.5 points per game.

Asked about his future following the Buckeyes' loss to the Shockers, Thomas stated that his mind remained on the present.

"It's a tough loss we've had.Thinking about this loss, man, I'm just going to go home, enjoy my family, get back in the gym, and have to think about this," he said. "This is a great group of guys I have around me and great coaching staff. So I'm going to enjoy my time off and not going to remember this loss and get back in the gym and get better."

NBA Draft websites currently project Thomas to be an early-to-mid second round pick, pointing to his scoring as his strength, but a lack of athleticism and defensive ability as weaknesses. A return to school for his senior season would likely land the Fort Wayne, Ind. native Ohio State's all-time scoring record, and would position the Buckeyes as a potential top-five team at the start of the season.

Thomas has until the end of April 28 to enter his name into the draft as an underclassman.

Regardless of what the Buckeyes' leading scorer decides in the coming weeks, the Ohio State coaching staff can rest assured that his likely replacement in the starting lineup- LaQuinton Ross- has already vowed to return to school for his junior season.

"I'm coming back next year," Ross said. "Right now, I really haven't thought about next season. I really haven't thought about that. I've only been focused on this year."

Coming off of the bench this season, Ross emerged in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 15 points and hitting the game-winning three-point shot in the Buckeyes' Sweet 16 win over Arizona. Given the 6-foot-8 forward's size and long distance shooting ability, Ross was thought to be an interesting professional prospect, despite his lack of experience at the collegiate level.

Regardless of what Thomas decides, Ross figures to be a key component to Ohio State's success in the 2013-14 season. A former four-star prospect, Ross just now seems to coming into his own, which is an encouraging thing for Buckeyes head coach Thad Matta.

"The growth of that young man has been tremendous," Matta said. "He's got a great future."



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