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By Matt McCoy
To listen to our final Bucksline with Tony White and Jeff Rapp click HERE:
The end of the Buckeye basketball season meant the end of another year of Basketball Bucksline. My thanks to 610 WTVN basketball analyst Tony White. I'm biased of course, but Tony's been on the WTVN team since 1997 and they don't come any better...both on the air and off.
Jeff Rapp of Sportsrappup.com is also a regular panalist (as he is during football season) and delivers perspective and insight that are unmatched. As a team, I hope you find the show as enjoyable to listen to as it is for me to host it. It's without question my favorite hour of radio each week.
Tony says DT should stay
Much of our final show dealt with the pending decision of Deshaun Thomas on whether to return for his senior year or turn pro. Buckeye coach Thad Matta will meet with Thomas as soon as Tuesday, to discuss the future.
Convential wisdom this year has been that Thomas would declare for the NBA draft but Tony believes it would be in the juniors best interest to return to Ohio State, earn his degree, work on his game and try to improve his stock for next year.
"If he goes pro he is not going to be drafted in the first round...it's not going to happen," Tony said. "At 6'6 or 6'7, you have to be a face-up, beat your man, handle the ball in transition, spread it around, shoot the three off the dribble type of a guy and that's not who he is...He's a second round pick at best. If he goes pro, he's going to end up overseas."
Thomas, who was named a third-team All-American by the Associated Press, has a son who just turned one. The chance to earn a living in professional basketball to support his family is likely a factor in his decision.
"He can make a decent amount of money (overseas) and he's got a family, I understand that," Tony said. "But you hope the kid is focusing on the long term factors. He's going to have great advise from (OSU assistant and former NBA player and assistant coach) Chris Jent and he's going to have great advise from Thad Matta who are probably going to tell him like it is..and like it is, is he's not a first round pick and he could be giving up money if he goes pro right now."
It's no sure bet that another year at Ohio State would improve Thomas stock. His game has taken strides but will it progress enough to become a sure fire first rounder? That answer is uncertain but Tony believes spending an off-season in the gym working on ball handling and quickness would at least give Thomas a chance to become a first round talent.
"There were two plays in the (Wichita State) game when he was trying to lead the fast break and the ball was turned over. He looked completely uncomfortable with the ball in his hands," Tony said. "He has to spend the entire off-season remaking his game to the point where he is a mobile, left and right, with the dribble type of an offensive guy who can create his own shots and beat people one-on-one."
Ross has a chance to be 'special'
If Thomas leaves, the Buckeye offense will likely become relient on LaQuinton Ross and based on the way the sophomore played in the post-season, that may not be a bad thing.
In four NCAA touranment games, Ross averaged 15 points per game, including 17.67 in the last three.
Ross growth came slowly during the season but really blossomed in the post-season. In the Big Ten tournament championship game versus Wisconsin Ross delivered down the stretch with two critical baskets. From that point on, he seemed to be a different player and of course was the hero against Arizona.
"He was the best player Ohio State had on the court offensively and it really wasn't even close," Tony said of Ross' play at the regionals in Los Angeles. "I give that kid a lot of credit and I hope he focuses in the off-season and works on the things he needs to work on because if he does, the kid can be a special player."
I finished our final Bucksline by going through the roster getting the thoughts of both Tony and Jeff Rapp on what other key Buckeyes need to work on before next season.
Jeff Rapp on Aaron Craft: "He's got most of what he needs. I don't know that you can completely overhaul his shot at this point but he's still got to work on shooting the pull-up, shooting in rhythm, and being a little more selfish, quite frankly. If Deshaun Thomas is gone, they're going to need Aaron Craft to be a double-digit scorer next year.
Tony White on Lenzelle Smith Jr.: "He can disappear like the invisable man...He had stretches of decent games but overall his junior year was disappointing. He did not step up and make shots when this team needed him to make shots. He's got to find a way to get consistantly good."
Jeff Rapp on Amir Williams: "He's got to play with some 'want to' and he's got to show more than he can just block shots on his defensive end. He's got to build off of what he did but he has to play with a lot more fury out there."
Tony White on Sam Thompson: "The jump shot that he showed that got a lot more consistant and got a lot more vibrant and visable in the last month and a half, I've got to see that more often...and frankly, I've got to stop seeing him hide (in big games). You can't be a junior on a team like this and hide. (Against Wichita State) he played 33 minutes had four points, three shots, two rebounds, no assists, one block and no steals. That's in an Elite Eight game. He can't have games like that anymore."
Conley beats the Spurs
In case you missed it Monday night, former Buckeye Mike Conley had a buzzer beating lay-up to lift Memphis to a 92-90 win over San Antonio. He finished with a game high 23 points. Here's his game-winner: