Tigers receive commitment from Chicago player

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Just days after Linas Kleiza announced he planned to leave Missouri to enter the NBA draft, the Tigers may have found another big man to help fill the void.

Chicago standout DeAndre Thomas on Monday made an oral commitment to play for the Tigers. The 6-foot-8 center is considered one of Chicago's top recruits.

Thomas picked Missouri over Big 12 rival Kansas and national runner-up Illinois. Thomas said he had considered visiting Kansas over the weekend but took a trip to Missouri instead. He said Tigers coach Quin Snyder, who cannot recruit off campus while under NCAA sanctions, did enough to persuade him.

"I liked everything about Missouri," Thomas said. "Coach Q sold me on the program."

Thomas averaged 21 points and 12 rebounds for Westinghouse High and was considered the best unsigned senior big man available. He was the Illinois Class AA and Chicago Sun-Times player of the year.

At 270 pounds, he is considered a bit heavy but said he will be on a strict diet and workout plan through the summer.

Missouri was in the market for a big man to replace Kleiza, who has not signed with an agent and has until June 21 to rescind his decision and retain eligibility. Kleiza, a sophomore from Lithuania, led Missouri with 16.1 points and 7.6 rebounds last season.

Last season, Kevin Young got the bulk of playing time at center, averaging 4.8 points per game.

Missouri has two other roster spots open following the offseason departures of Spencer Laurie and Jeffrey Ferguson.

Thomas joins fellow newcomers Leo Criswell, a 6-8 forward formerly of Piper High in Kansas City and now at Coastal Christian Academy in Virginia Beach, Va.; guard Keaton Grant of Kissimmee, Fla., who has yet to qualify academically; and Matt Lawrence, a forward from St. Louis Lafayette, who is expected to walk on.

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