When Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas announced that he was returning for his junior season, Buckeyes fans breathed a collective sigh of relief.
The departures of William Buford and Jared Sullinger created two significant holes to fill in OSU's starting lineup. If Thomas would have left too, Thad Matta would have had to replace nearly 48 points and 20 rebounds per game.
But since Thomas decided to come back to Columbus for his third year on campus, Matta has a proven scorer to build around in the 2012-13 season.
If Ohio State is going to challenge for the Big Ten title and make a deep run in the next NCAA tournament, here are four places Deshaun Thomas needs to step up in 2012-13 to become a star.
Deshaun Thomas is an effective scorer facing the basket.
He has a nasty mid-range game where he punishes opponents by knocking down jumpers or taking it all the way to the rim.
One area that Thomas needs to prove himself is in shooting from distance.
Last year the 6'7" forward shot 34.5 percent from beyond the arc, the lowest among the Buckeyes starters.
It's not that Thomas doesn't like to shoot the three. He was second on the team in three-point attempts.
He needs to improve both his shot selection and accuracy from downtown.
Deshaun Thomas is a solid ball-handler. He just needs to look more to hit open teammates when they are in scoring position.
Last year, as a starter who played a lot of minutes (1,224), Thomas only had 35 total assists, the lowest among OSU starters.
Sure, most people who watch Ohio State play get that his best contribution to the Buckeyes' success is in being a scorer. But to average less than an assist per game (0.9 APG) is unacceptable for a player of Thomas' caliber.
Deshaun Thomas proved in the NCAA tournament that he can make an impact on the defensive end of the court.
When the Buckeyes faced Syracuse in the East Region finals, Thomas shut down the Orange's Kris Joseph, holding him to 4-of-11 shooting and 10 points.
Thomas also made Kansas' Thomas Robinson work for every one of his 19 points in the national semifinal game.
Because of his size (6'7", 225 lbs), NBA scouts will look to see if Thomas can get outside the paint and guard SFs on the wing.
Thomas has the athleticism to pull this off. He just needs to make this a focus.
Deshaun Thomas can be a good rebounder...when Deshaun Thomas wants to be a good rebounder.
In a late February game against Michigan, he not only scored 25 points, but he also pulled down 13 rebounds.
Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, Thomas has not consistently concentrated on hitting the glass on either end of the court.
His 5.4 RPG is far from what the Fort Wayne, IN native could be averaging.
Ohio State will be looking to Thomas to be a more active part of their ability to control the boards.