Chicago center fills void for Missouri

Tuesday, April 26, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:04 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

After three players announced their departure in the past three weeks, the Missouri men’s basketball team needed some good news.

It got some Sunday.

Center DeAndre Thomas an all-state player from Westinghouse High School in Chicago, made an oral commitment to Missouri and will sign a letter of intent with the Tigers, the Chicago Tribune reported Monday.

Thomas, 6 feet 8, 270 pounds, said he made the decision Sunday after returning from a visit to Missouri.

Before then, Thomas said Illinois was his No. 1 choice and Kansas was his No. 2 choice. He also considered Georgetown and Florida State.

“Illinois stopped calling me and it was like Kansas put me on hold to see if one of their players was transferring,” Thomas told the Chicago Tribune. “Now, it’s all about payback, because I get to play against both of them.

“I liked everything about Missouri. I bonded with coach (Quin) Snyder and all the players, and I really like the new basketball facility.”

Thomas, a three-year star for Westinghouse, was the Player of the Year in the Chicago Public League and was billed as the No. 3 prospect in the state of Illinois by the Web site.

Last year Thomas averaged 21 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and three blocks.

Thomas will likely take either Jeffrey Ferguson’s or Linas Kleiza’s scholarship as well as fill their voids in the post.

Kleiza, a sophomore forward, said Saturday that he planned to file for the 2005 NBA Draft, though he did not hire an agent, leaving the option of returning to Missouri open.

Ferguson, a junior, announced his decision to pursue professional opportunities or transfer schools Friday.

The other player to leave Missouri in the past month was sophomore guard Spencer Laurie who announced his decision to transfer April 7.

On Sunday, the Springfield News-Leader reported Laurie made an official declaration of his intention to transfer to Southwest Missouri State where he will play with younger brother Shane Laurie, an incoming recruit for the Bears.

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