DeShaun Thomas has spent the past three seasons learning how the other half lives.
He grew up as a basketball star and his freshman season at Ohio State ended with a 34-2 record. He seemed destined for even more.
And then it went dramatically south. Selected late in the 2013 draft, he ended up playing for the San Antonio Spurs’ development league team, then alternated between playing overseas and back in the D-League.
Now he’s in Orlando, on the Charlotte Hornets’ summer roster, hoping to leave a strong impression. Saturday, he succeeded.
Thomas, a 6-foot-7 small forward, made eight of 14 shots for 19 points. He also grabbed five rebounds and totaled three steals. He was perhaps the one player to excel for the Hornets in a 79-74 loss to the Magic split squad at Orlando Summer League.
Thomas would love a real shot at making an NBA roster, but he’s having a pretty good career and life so far. There are worse places to spend a winter than Barcelona, Spain.
“Europe has been a great experience, particularly Barcelona. Good weather, great food. You can’t beat it,” said Thomas, who played for FC Barcelona.
Thomas practiced in the same complex where soccer superstar Lionel Messi trains.
“Messi came and watched us a lot. We actually practice where they do,” Thomas recalled. “To see a guy, Messi, one of the greatest athletes in the world, and how hard he works all the time.”
At 24, Thomas is one of the more experienced players on the Hornets’ summer-league roster. He hopes what he’s learned overseas and in the minors he can pass on to the rookies.
“Part of this is about letting the young guys know it’s a grind. It’s hard work,” Thomas said. “They have to remember everybody is watching you, even when you’re overseas. So you’ve got to stay professional about it.”
The Orlando Summer League is known for having a compact five-game schedule, as opposed to the Las Vegas Summer League, which ends in a single-elimination tournament format.
So the Hornets will be right back on the court Sunday for a 1 p.m. matchup with the Indiana Pacers, followed by a 5 p.m. game against the Oklahoma City Thunder Monday at 5 p.m.
Area players sat Saturday
Associate head coach Patrick Ewing obviously can’t play all 14 players on the summer roster every game. Among those who sat out against the Magic: High Point forward John Brown and Charlotte 49ers center Joseph Uchebo.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; @rick_bonnell