Thomas Is a Man on a Mission

DeAndre Thomas' first few months in Bloomington have been all about shedding some weight and getting in shape for the upcoming season. IU fans had a chance to see what sort of progress Thomas has made during last night's Barnstorming game in New Albany...

New Albany, Ind. – DeAndre Thomas is trying to scale things back.

The Hoosiers' 6'8" junior college transfer is only two and a half months away from the start of his first season with the IU basketball program. He has individual as well as team goals for the upcoming campaign, but before any of those can be fulfilled, he has another task he's determined to tackle.

Cutting his weight to 290 pounds.

It's an objective that's about survival as much as anything. Thomas knows Kelvin Sampson practices are difficult enough when you're in shape, let alone when you're still a work in progress. That's why he's already slimmed down to 323 pounds, some 30 pounds less than what he was when he first arrived at IU in the spring.

"I'm going to get there," Thomas insisted Thursday night.

Thomas' daily regimen has included not only open gym workouts with his new teammates, but frequent walks around his new-found Bloomington home. Many a Bloomingtonian has spotted the Chicago native making his way around the city in an effort to shed the excess weight.

"I was walking, running, going in the woods walking," Thomas said. "I've done everything. I'm working hard."

He's been prodded along by the IU strength and conditioning coaches, the Hoosier coaching staff as well as his teammates, all of whom realize Thomas has a chance to play a valuable role on the frontline for this year's squad. While D.J. White is the marquee big man on the Hoosiers', Thomas has a chance to provide a physical presence inside as well.

With that in mind, Thomas has received plenty of encouragement from his teammates in his off-season quest to slim down.

"I've learned all my teammates care, and they are willing to do anything for you," Thomas said. "The coaches don't give up on you, they keep pushing you."

That pushing and prodding appears to have Thomas headed in the right direction. Nearly 3,500 fans got a chance to see the biggest man on the Hoosiers' 2007-08 roster in action last night, as Thomas was joined by the other five members of the '07 recruiting class in the first of five barnstorming games at New Albany H.S.

While it was Eric Gordon's 38 points and Jamarcus Ellis' triple-double that highlighted the recruits' performances in the 140-106 victory, Thomas chipped in 13 points, nine rebounds and three assists of his own in 25 minutes of action.

Like all of the other newcomers, Thomas was greeted with a standing ovation by the fans, something that didn't entirely catch him by surprise.

"I love Indiana basketball, and I watched their games on TV every year and I knew it was going to be like this," Thomas said. "We were expecting a big crowd, and we wanted to put on a good show."

Thomas and his fellow newcomers did just that, and their performance has many thinking this year's recruiting class has a chance to be among the best Indiana has brought in.

"D.J.'s freshman year, I think we can match that year," said Thomas, referring to IU's 2004 recruiting class that featured D.J. White, Robert Vaden, A.J. Ratliff, Josh Smith, Robert Rothbart and James Hardy. "I think we have a really special group."

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