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DeShaun Thomas Works Out for Hometown Team

by Scott Agness | @ScottAgness

June 13, 2013

It took Deshaun Thomas just 16 minutes - via a car - to get from his Embassy Suites room to Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Thursday. He was one of six prospects the Pacers brought in ahead of the 2013 NBA Draft on June 27.

"It feel good to be here at home, and put on for the Pacers," Thomas said. "I wouldn't hate it if they draft me. It would be a good experience to be home."

Thomas' travel was short and didn't require a plane ticket because he's been training for the draft in Indianapolis since April, working out with Chris Thomas at St. Vincent Sports Performance. At the conclusion of the college season, Deshaun Thomas, who averaged 19.8 points (on 44.5 percent shooting) and 5.9 rebounds per game this year, decided to forgo his senior season at Ohio State and enter his name in the draft.

"I felt like it was my time to take my life to the next level and my game to the next stage," he said. "I stuck with [the decision to turn pro] and there's no second guessing at all."

Related: Draft Workouts Notebook: Oriakhi, 3-Point Shooters, and Praise for Pacers »

Thomas, 21, is an Indiana native. He was born in Fort Wayne and was a McDonald's All-American out of Bishop Luers High School. He won the prestigious Indiana Mr. Basketball award in 2010. During his sophomore and juniors seasons (in 2008 and 2009) at Bishop Luers, he led his school to consecutive appearances in the Class 2A state finals.

Now, he's trying to earn his way into the NBA, a dream of his from a very young age. He described himself as a competitor, a great scorer with great character and a fun guy that wants to badly win in the professional ranks.

Thomas has gone through eight workouts so far and expects another eight or nine before the big day in two weeks. He said it's a grind, much like a job, where each day he must go in and perform at his best.

"The process is fun," Thomas said. "It's a blessing. There's a lot of kids wishing they could be in our shoes so you got to take it as a blessing and work at it and work at it. It's been kind of challenging because you don't know where you're going to end up at.

"The jet-lag is crazy. It's a little bit tiring but it's all about rest and being a pro's pro. You got to eat right, drink a lot of water and get enough sleep."

The 21-year-old makes sure teams see his energy and conditioning during the workouts, which usually last about 75 minutes. Most teams have been working him out at the small forward. He prefers the "3" spot because it's a versatile position for a versatile player like himself, who can space the floor, take his man off the dribble and score in a number of ways.

One guy Thomas has leaned on is a fellow Indiana Mr. Basketball winner - Greg Oden (2006). Oden was taken by Portland with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft, so he's been through the process and understands the demands of the NBA.

While Thomas grew up in what he described as the Kobe Era, he continues to closely follow his hometown team. He even had to educate some of his friends on what the Pacers all about.

"They had a great team," he said of the Pacers' 2013 season. "They played well as a team. They played good defense as a team and just had heart. I wish they would have gotten over that hump. I was rooting for them. They had a great season.

"Some of my friends didn't think the Pacers were that good, but I knew they were always that good. I watched the Pacers. I seen how they compete, [have a] good coaching staff and they're coming up. They just need to get over that hump against Miami."

The Pacers also hosted Will Clyburn (Iowa State), Troy Daniels (VCU), Alex Oriakhi (Missouri), James Southerland (Syracuse), and C.J. Leslie (North Carolina State). Due to an injury, Leslie did not participate in the on-court activities.

Southerland Caught the Eye

The physical similarities between James Southerland and Indiana's Paul George were striking. 6-8, 221 pounds -- the exact measurements listed for George, a budding star in the NBA. Southerland, like George, is lean and prides himself on willing to do it all.

Out of Syracuse University, the obvious concern is his defensive skills after playing four years of zone. Kids, however, play a ton of man defense in the young stages of life so it's something Southerland isn't too worried about.

"Just like we adjusted to the zone, we can adjust to man-to-man," he said. "It's basically hard work and dedication. That's what it is."

It's hard work that helped George win the Most Improved Player of the Year award and his defensive improvement earned him a spot on the All-Defensive Second team. Southerland believes he can defend 2s, 3s, and 4s because of his length and quick feet. He expects the weight, which is needed to battle in this league, will come with time.

"I'm definitely going to get stronger, especially with the time I have to prepare," he said. "At the same time, I have to get working on every other thing."

During Thursday's workout, which he described as going "OK," the Pacers observed how he came off screens, saw the floor, and finished at the basket.

"It's hard because you never know what someone is looking for in the workouts."

Southerland, 23, seems to fit the mold of a Pacers player. He's versatile, has a great work ethic and has plenty of room for growth. His speciality is shooting the ball. He's slated to workout for about 15 different team and will likely be a second-round pick, in the 30-40 range.

During his senior season, which included a trip to the Final Four, Southerland averaged 13.2 points, and five rebounds per games while connecting on 39.8 percent of his attempts from behind the arc.

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