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Deshaun Thomas: For the love of the game

Dov Halickman Photography

With Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Euroleague home opener on the horizon, the Sports Rabbi sat down with one of the Yellow & Blue’s newest stars and European veteran, Deshaun Thomas. The 6ft 7 in forward played for Anadolou Efes last season and has also featured for Barcelona while his NBA dream is still alive. The Fort Wayne native was a 2010 McDonald’s All-American played at Ohio State University and averaged close to 20 points and 6 rebounds a game in his junior year before entering the 2013 NBA draft where he was selected by the San Antonio Spurs with the 58th pick.

As the curtain is about to be raised for another campaign of roundball in Tel Aviv let’s get to know #1 just a little bit better:

Where did your love for basketball begin?
“My love of basketball began in Fort Wayne, Indiana, at the old fort YMCA. It started right there and that’s where I found my mentor James Whittaker, who saw me just playing basketball on the court. He introduced me to the game and had a close friend named Ty Tubbs who introduced me to playing ball at the Y when I was in 3rd or 4th grade.”

Loving the game:
“As a kid you want to do other things that kids your age are doing, but I knew when I was playing I was something special. Like I said, James Whittaker had me in the gym working on little parts of my game. I was always playing and had a basketball in my hands and went to play at the park. Basketball was always there for me. Growing up I watched players like Kobe Bryant and it’s always been stuck in my head that the love for the game is real.”

Dov Halickman Photography


Looking up to Kobe:
“I grew up around an area where everyone liked Kobe Bryant. He was my guy to watch because I am a good scorer and he was a good scorer to.”

Family supporting a basketball career:
“Growing up it was difficult, especially for me because my mom wasn’t really around at the time but now she’s a blessing because she is. My dad was always supportive and he came around and picked me up. My family’s support wasn’t really as strong back then because they didn’t know what I was going to be, they didn’t believe in me. But some did and basketball was my motivation to prove people wrong and at the end of the day the biggest supporter was my grandmother because she was there and saw something special in me.”

Favorite postion:
“The game has been going smaller my whole life and I have played stretch 4 while in high school I played any position. I can shoot from outside and post up on smaller guards so the thing about it is that I’d rather play 3 or 4 because the game is smaller and it’s always good to be versatile because you never know what teams are expecting.”

Dov Halickman Photography


Playing one day in the NBA:
“That’s every kid’s goal. I think I can play in that league, but it is a business at the end of the day and I’m just taking one step at a time and enjoying these moments playing in Europe. The sky’s the limit and if it happens, it happens. But it is always at the back of my mind trying to get there and put my foot in the door.”

Challenges throughout:
“From a basketball standpoint it was just staying focused and being ready when things are not going your way. I think that was my thing, being focused and being ready at any given time and learning from the process and your mistakes, because every year I played in Europe I faced a different challenge. My first year was just coming in and being in Europe for the first time. The second year was playing the 3 position in Barcelona. I played in the D-League just trying to make it to the NBA and that was a good challenge. Then in Istanbul the challenge was learning when things don’t go your way and wondering why this is happening or that isn’t happening. I think that really motivated me and kept me positive and kept me strong as a person.”

Israel so far:
“It’s been really good. The weather is good and so are the beaches. Everybody speaks English and there is also great food. It’s really a great experience and I like the city. I’m still getting used to it and trying to figure it out, but besides that I can say that Barcelona and Tel Aviv are the best cities that I have played in.”

More on Tel Aviv:
“It’s more Americanized than other countries in my eyes because everybody speaks English and everyone has more of a New York style and a little bit of Miami. That was one thing that kind of shocked me because people have told me that before and now I am seeing it for myself.”

Team chemistry:
“Our chemistry is great. That’s one thing that shocked me because we are a new team. I think we have a great team that can make some noise. They say it’s difficult when a whole team changes, but I think we can get back to that winning program for Maccabi and do it the professional way.”

Dov Halickman Photography


About coach Neven Spahija:
“Coach said that we are trying to be at the top of the Israeli league and that we are going to do it in a professional way. He is a good coach and coaches the game the right way and also has the experience in the NBA. He tells us to just compete and play hard and doesn’t really care about who takes what shot, he just wants us to play defense and play hard. I know one thing that if I ever will be a coach down the line, you have to be a players coach and he is good at that. That’s what some players need to keep their confidence and keep working hard.”

Best player ever guarded:
“I would say Harrison Barnes. He was a great player in my class, talented coming into high school and he was the toughest player I’ve had to guard.”

Dov Halickman Photography


Wearing #1:
“I’ve had it ever since I was young, that’s been my motto; to be #1. I did switch my numbers from 23 to 1 sometimes because my son was born in March which is the third month and 2 because he was born on the 22nd so both of those numbers are my lucky numbers.”

Improving:
“It’s the little things, like being more active on the defensive end and maybe showing my hands. I’m very long, so I can get there but sometimes I need to get my hands there. That comes with time and learning the system and just keep getting more rhythms that stick in my mind which is what I need to do.”

Message for the fans:
“Expect a good year. We are going to be loud and crazy and are going to give it our all. We are very excited.”