DeShaun Thrower, a two-sport student-athlete in high school, was the quarterback of the Muskegon High School Varsity Football team in Michigan when it lost at the end of the state championships due to a trick play. As a senior, Thrower’s team lost in the state championships again. The heartbreak became all too familiar.
After the junior-year loss, Thrower said that the whole team was crying—frustrated and mad.
“I knew I had been playing with that group since I was little,” Thrower said. “Some of those guys—since I was little—we never played again. It’s something that you want to win, a state championship in both sports in high school, and something that you really want to do is work hard. To lose like that on the last play, it hurt.”
The pain of losing returned for Thrower when he watched Albany’s then-junior guard Peter Hooley drain a buzzer-beating three pointer to win the America East title and a trip to the NCAA tournament in 2015.
But there was a twist to it.
This loss was not with the same band of brothers he had grown up with. This loss was not with the same team he led time and time again. This time he was on the basketball court, a freshman point guard trying to find his way at Stony Brook.
“It was like a different feeling,” Thrower said, “It was my first time losing at the buzzer like that in the tournament in basketball. I had always seen the crazy plays in March Madness on TV and stuff, growing up. It was different to actually be a part of it and witness it firsthand.”
Over the summer, Thrower wanted to get better in order to do his part in making sure that anguish would not haunt his team again. During the eight weeks he spent in his hometown of Muskegon, Thrower spent his days in the gym.
At 6 a.m., he would begin working on his shooting and ball handling. Thrower worked with his high school head coach, Keith Guy.
Thrower would join practices with some of his old teammates, as well as newer members of Muskegon’s Varsity Basketball team.
While having his old high school coach beside him helped, no one could top the motivation of what he had been through. Even the thought of losing pushes Thrower.
“My team always won since I was little,” Thrower said. “I always hated losing, even when me and my brother used to play games—Playstation and all that—I always hated hated losing. The people that I always been around—they love winning too. It’s just something I grew up around.”
In his basketball career, losing was rare. Again, it was a loss that made Thrower hungrier than ever.
“In his junior year, [Muskegon] lost in the quarterfinals,” Guy said. “We should’ve won, we felt. That was the next step to make it to the final four and [Thrower] said it would never happen again. He said that the night that we lost and he said we’ll get there next year.”
During his senior year, Thrower led Muskegon to an undefeated season, the team’s first in 77 years. In the process, he helped win the state championship.
While he dominated in high school, Thrower’s college experience did not get off to the best start.
In his first 10 games wearing a Stony Brook jersey, Thrower shot 26 percent from the field. But he put his nose to the grindstone and worked to get better—again.
“He came a long way,” senior forward Rayshaun McGrew said. “He started off rocky like every freshman do. He hit the freshman wall. But once you get used to the system and get used to the way college basketball is played, he came out. He blossomed.”
All that work came to fruition in the America East semifinal game against Vermont. After the early season struggles and adjusting to a new level of the sport, Thrower scored 18 points to lead the Seawolves to the America East Conference’s championship game.
This year, Thrower is looking to improve even more. Coming to Stony Brook, one of his goals was making the All-Rookie team. Thrower did not make the cut.
However, from what Stony Brook head coach Steve Pikiell has seen so far, he is on his way to achieving that goal.
“I just see [Thrower] now as a more confident, more seasoned player,” Pikiell said. “[He’s] more mature, more comfortable with our defensive schemes and offensive schemes.”
While his shooting was 30 percent from the field last year, Thrower is looking for his breakout year. “I want to prove that I belong to play Division I,” Thrower said. “I belong to play here, and I’m a good player and I’m one of the best players in the conference.”