Over his career, Delano Thomas has proven himself as a great student of the game of basketball — all while honing his skills as a teacher both in the United States and overseas.
Now, Thomas will have the opportunity to build a program in the way that he sees fit.
After serving as an assistant coach with the Shawnee State basketball program over the past three seasons, the 35-year old has received his own opportunity to lead the Bears’ unit as Jeff Hamilton will hand over the keys to the experienced basketball hand who shows professionalism in spades.
For Thomas, the opportunity to coach his alma mater is not only a blessing, but a lifelong goal that has been fulfilled.
But the former post player, however, knows that as with any goal, it will take twice as much work to make the goal a successful one.
“I’m very excited to just have been able to come back, graduate from Shawnee State, and be Jeff Hamilton’s assistant for the last three years,” Thomas said. “Having the opportunity to take over is definitely a blessing. I’m looking forward to the opportunity of building relationships within the community and groom guys for what’s next when they finish their education at Shawnee State. I’m looking forward to it.”
In Hamilton’s eyes, it’s an opportunity that’s well deserved.
“It’s very rewarding,” Hamilton said. “I couldn’t be happier for DeLano. He’s the right guy for the job. I think that the energy that he has and the dedication that he has, his relationship with the former and current players at Shawnee State, and his ability to recruit, are all very impressive qualities of his. However, the thing that I am most confident about with DeLano is the fact that he’s going to make sure that his guys are going to work hard and act right, both on and off of the floor. I think that’ll go a long way in his success.”
From the outset, it always looked if as Thomas was going to use the game of basketball to pave a future for himself. A career at Columbus’ Beechcroft High School, where the 6-8, 225-pounder averaged 14 points and 13 rebounds as a junior, and 17 points per game as a senior to go along with Division II All-Ohio Second-Team honors, was a good indication of the kind of talent that Thomas had in the game of basketball.
However, even those standout numbers weren’t indicators of the kind of intangibles and leadership qualities that Thomas brought to the table.
After a junior college stop at Clark State, Thomas began his career at Shawnee State University in 2002, which was Hamilton’s first season as a head coach himself after taking over for the departed Geno Ford, who had been hired as an assistant by Kent State.
And from the outset, Thomas made a huge impression on not only Hamilton, but his teammates as well.
“DeLano’s very quiet and is reserved as far as his personality goes, but he’s also extremely competitive,” Hamilton said. “He’s one of the most skilled players that I’ve ever coached, and he was versatile and unselfish. I saw some things in him and his ability, at his size, to perform the skills that one would normally see out of a perimeter player, such as bringing the ball up the floor. There’s a lot of times when we would be pressed, and he would be the guy that we would rely on to bring the ball up the court, because with his size, the opponent would have to bring a big guy up to guard him. With his quickness and ballhanding skills, that made it an obvious mismatch that we could exploit. He was a lot of fun to coach.”
Those skills were evident in the statlines that Thomas put up into arguably the most competitive basketball conference in the NAIA at that time — the American Mideast Conference — as Thomas put up averages of 13.6 points and 11.5 rebounds per contest during his career at Shawnee State.
Included in that career? A senior season that saw the Columbus native put together numbers of 15.8 points and 11.9 rebounds per affair en route to First-Team All-AMC and AMC Player of the Year honors, as well as First-Team NAIA Division II All-American accolades — making him, to this day, just the second Shawnee State men’s basketball player to ever obtain such an honor.
But even looking back on it today, Thomas knows that his opportunities as a player wouldn’t have been possible without the kind of teammates that he had around him.
“I just worked hard and tried to do the right things,” Thomas said. “I couldn’t have done it without the teammates that I had that put me in situations to succeed. My teammates were great when I was here, and the coaching staff helped me obtain those kinds of accolades.”
After playing for the American Basketball Association’s Texas Tycoons, Thomas continued to parlay his excellent college career into additional opportunities overseas.
Even though Thomas initially suffered a dislocated hip that kept him out for the entire 2005 season, the 6-8 forward bounced back and used his effort and hard work to obtain basketball opportunities in Brazil, Germany, Norway, Portugal, Syria, and Uruguay over a professional career that spanned eight seasons. In three of those years, Thomas averaged double-figures, including a 19.4-point, 10.4-rebound per game effort with Gimle BBK in Norway that earned him defensive player of the year honors.
“Playing overseas helped me learn to listen,” Thomas said. “When you go to different countries, there’s a lot of different languages that are being spoken. I’ve been on teams where my coach or my teammates didn’t speak English. Learning to listen to people in different languages showed me that it’s not just about the game of basketball or the X’s and O’s that go into it, it’s about listening to people, learning what they’ve had to do, and what they like to do and don’t like to do. After I figured all of that out, the basketball part became so much easier because I was willing to do those things. It shows that listening is definitely a skill, and it was something that I had to work on in order to become a better individual.”
Thomas’ playing days abroad have also translated to a coaching reputation that has vastly grown as the Columbus, Ohio native has moved forward during his coaching career.
And why wouldn’t it, especially when one considers that the 6-8 forward took on at least two head coaching opportunities — while he was still playing professional basketball.
In 2007, Thomas helped lead Montevideo High School in Uruguay to a 22-10 record. Then from 2012 to 2014, Thomas led the U15 boys and girls of Ulriken Ung., in Norway to a second place finish in the Bergen Region. Under Thomas’ leadership, the girls earned a silver medal and the boys a bronze medal in the Hansa Cup.
So it’s easy to see why Hamilton’s excitement for his former player-turned-coach is through the roof.
“DeLano’s going to demand that his players work hard,” Hamilton said. “He’s going to hold them accountable. I watch him work our guys out, and they are not catered to the players. You have to be a tough, competitive person to make it through those workouts. He’s really impressed me with his ability to hold people accountable and force people to work harder to the point where they aren’t comfortable with it. I’m looking forward to watching him develop his team, and I’m excited to see the things that he’ll bring out in them.”
And it’s an excitement that is well-warranted.
“I love just being a student of the game,” Thomas said. “I’m always willing to learn more and am open to being better, and that’s something that I believe will help me in the long run as far as developing relationships and competitive players are concerned.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930