If Ohio State wants to return to the Elite Eight for the third straight time in 2014, it will have to do so without leading scorer Deshaun Thomas.
CBS Sports' Jeff Goodman reported on Friday afternoon on Twitter that Thomas is declaring early for the NBA draft:
Ohio State's official website then confirmed through a press release that the junior forward will forgo his senior season and enter the 2013 prospect pool.
Here's what Thomas had to say about his decision, per the release:
"My three years at Ohio State have been the best years of my life...I have grown tremendously as an individual and as a basketball player. I intend to return to finish my degree, but I believe that now is the best opportunity to pursue my dream and begin my career as a professional basketball player. I will always be a Buckeye and am blessed to be a part of the Ohio State University family.
Thomas' head coach, Thad Matta, also wished his star forward the best in his NBA endeavors:
“To see Deshaun grow into the man he has become has been amazing...His accomplishments on the floor. I know there is much more in-store for him in the future and I am proud to have been able to coach him.”
Thomas, who will end his Buckeye career as the ninth-best scorer in school history with 1,630 points, lead the team in scoring during the 2012-13 season. Thomas had averages of 19.8 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.3 assists this season, and he scored in double figures in all of Ohio State's 37 regular season and NCAA tournament games.
According to Goodman, NBA executives have Thomas pegged as a late first-round or early second-round option at this point in the process.
After being part of the program in one of the most successful periods in Ohio State basketball history, Thomas will finish his career as one of only 25 Buckeyes to score 1,000 points and grab 500 rebounds. He also led the Big Ten in scoring during his final collegiate season.
Per the release, Thomas plans to finish the Spring semester at Ohio State while upping his preparation for the upcoming June draft.