Thomas Ready To Add Fries To His Shake

By Jeff Rapp, March 31st, 2010

Before looking ahead to tonight’s McDonald’s All-American Game (8 p.m. Eastern, ESPN) at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus and imagining future Buckeyes Jared Sullinger and DeShaun Thomas sharing the court, one must flash back to their head-to-head meeting in the same building in mid-January.

That’s when Sullinger’s Columbus Northland team handily took down Thomas’ Bishop Luers squad out of Fort Wayne, Ind. It’s also when Thomas delivered an eye-opening sideshow of drives, hangers, bombs from the outside and a rebounding display in traffic.

When the dust settled the 6-7 lefty had 36 points, the admiration of the OSU fans and the respect of Northland coach Satch Sullinger, Jared’s father.

“We threw the kitchen sink at him,” he said. “I had to go in the locker room and look in the mirror and make sure there wasn’t a star on my head, because he lit us up like a Christmas tree.”

Thomas’ Luers team was no match for the Vikings, then the top-rated prep outfit in the country. However, he made his point.

“I had to put up a show,” Thomas told “This is about to be my home town next year, so I put up a little nice show, show them what I’m all about coming in for the season.

“It was fun. I can keep a smile on my face. I wanted to win, but they’re a good ballclub. We gave it our all. We came out there and our coach said just have fun and play hard, and we did that.”

Jared Sullinger was considered the top prospect in the whole country throughout his senior season but he walked off the court that night shaking his head in amazement t the God-given talents of his future teammate.

“How should I put this? With what he put out there on that floor tonight, Jon Diebler needs to look out,” he said. “He came out strong.

“He’s physical. He’s a 3-man that’s physical. He plays hard inside and out. And the tough thing about it is he drives you and you lean back and he’s rising right over you. He has pretty good smarts for the game.

“I want to fight him right now because he had 36 on my team, but, oh well.”

Sullinger, of course, was kidding about the last part. The truth is, the two get along very well and are excited for tonight’s nationally televised showcase mostly because they will be on the court as teammates. They are on the 12-man East roster and presumably will start together. Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary coach Dru Joyce, who will have the reins for the East, said he will rotate players but keep Sullinger and Thomas together.

“I’m looking forward to playing with him a lot,” Thomas said of Sullinger, Ohio’s two-time “Mr. Basketball” and a recently named national player of the year. “He’s a big man, he can pass well, he can shoot well, he can spread the floor. I’m looking at being very confident playing with him next year.”

One reason for that confidence is that Thomas and Sullinger actually have played together before, only behind closed doors. The two of them and other members of the 2010 signing class played some pickups games at OSU in the late summer and during their visit the weekend of the USC football game. In those games they played with and against current and former Ohio State players.

One game in particular stands out to Thomas.

“We beat them,” he said. “It was the 2010 class vs. the older guys – and Greg Oden was there. So it felt great. It felt like we could play with them. Jared came out and played hard against Greg Oden and I came out and played hard against Evan Turner.”

Tonight may not be quite that challenging, but close. The West squad Thomas and Sullinger will face is rife with major college talent including five highly skilled guards and a frontline that includes 6-8 forward Harrison Barnes, 6-8 Jereme Richmond, 6-9 Terence Jones, 6-9 Patric Young, 6-10 Tristan Thompson, 6-10 Joshua Smith and 7-0 Fab Melo. Smith is a 280-pound behemoth and Melo has an enormous wingspan.

“They’ve got all the big guys,” Thomas said. “But we’ve got guys who are athletic and have heart. It’ll be very interesting tomorrow to see how it goes.”

Thomas, though, is making sure not to put too much stock into the outcome of the game. He knows the event is about more than that, like yesterday’s trip to the Ronald McDonald House.

“We’re here for the house of charity and I’m just here to have fun and put on a show for Ohio State and go back as a McDonald’s All-American,” he said.

As for playing the game at Schott, he added, “It means a lot. A couple months ago I got to play against Jared on that court and it felt great. I got the fans into it, the crowd loved me, so it will feel great to be on that court again.”