Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Thomas Sets Mark as Illini Win 108-84

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Thomas Sets Mark as Illini Win 108-84

Article excerpt

Deon Thomas, the marquee player at Illinois, put his name on the billboard of Illini history Saturday night in Assembly Hall.

Call him Neon Deon from now on, because he is the Illini's career scoring leader in basketball. With 5 minutes 28 seconds remaining in the first half of a game against American University, Thomas took a pass down low. He was double-teamed but sank a soft, turnaround jump shot. The 14,523 fans stood and applauded.

The basket gave Thomas, a senior forward, 21 points in the game and 1,694 in his career. Action was stopped for nearly five minutes. Thomas' grandmother, Bernice McGary, and his 3-year-old son, Dominique, joined him at center court. Coach Lou Henson presented Thomas with a ball. Assistant coach Jimmy Collins, who recruited Thomas, gave Grandma a kiss and posed for photos.

Illinois won the Illini/Pepsi Classic with a 108-84 victory over American, with Thomas scoring 31 points, but that was overshadowed by the moment of triumph for the soft-spoken Thomas.

Thomas, a Chicagoan, broke a 12-year-old record of 1,692 career points, set by National Basketball Association veteran Eddie Johnson at Illinois from 1977 to 1981.

Out of Chicago Simeon High, Thomas once was one of the most coveted prep players in the nation. His arrival at Illinois proved to be controversial, so he wanted to share the moment with his grandmother, who reared him and watched him blossom into a basketball star.

Thomas said he told his grandmother, "I'm not done yet. Barring injury, I've got a lot of playing to do. Then I told her to get off the court, not exactly like that."

"I've always told him to use up a lot of energy and to always keep smiling," she said.

Thomas said he had given his grandmother all his trophies and awards. He said he wanted her here Saturday night to help him celebrate this accomplishment.

Considering all the problems Thomas endured before he was allowed even to put on an Illini uniform, the record is that much sweeter.

Illinois and Iowa both recruited him. Iowa charged that the Illini had offered him a Chevrolet Blazer, among other things, if he would come to Champaign.

The NCAA reviewed the allegations, and the Illini were never found guilty of anything. …

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