Big Rapids – It would be tough to find a student-athlete busier than DeShaun Thrower of Ferris State.
After all, there are not many athletes who are in basketball practice during the late afternoon like Thrower was Wednesday, after having football practice in the morning and classes in between.
“He was born in shape, not that he doesn’t work at it,” said Ferris State men’s basketball coach Andy Bronkema, who guided the Bulldogs to a school-record 28-5 record and GLIAC title last year, advancing to the Division II Midwest Regional semifinals.
Thrower is playing football and basketball for the Bulldogs, who are national championship contenders in both. The Bulldogs are 7-1 (6-1 GLIAC) in football and ranked No. 12 heading into Saturday’s game at Davenport.
The Bulldogs -- ranked No. 10 in the NABC coaches' poll -- opened the season Friday afternoon in the Small College Basketball Hall of Fame Classic in Evansville, defeating No. 5 St. Thomas Aquinas, 84-79, with senior point guard Drew Cushingberry (Romeo) contributing 21 points and five assists. They will play No. 6 Indiana (Pa.) Saturday.
Thrower had a standout prep career, winning the Mr. Basketball award in 2014 while leading Muskegon – with former MSU player Deyonta Davis, who is now with the Memphis Grizzlies – to the Class A state championship with a 21-point performance in the title game.
Thrower also led Muskegon to consecutive state final appearances in football, rushing for two TDs and throwing for one in a 38-21 loss to Birmingham Brother Rice at Ford Field his senior year.
“It’s been real fun to play both sports since I hadn’t played football since high school,” said Thrower, who transferred from Division I Stony Brook, where he helped the program earn its first NCAA tournament appearance in 2016, then left following the departure of head coach Steve Pikiell, who took the Rutgers’ head coaching job. “I’ve been playing free safety in football, been on the field quite a bit and having fun with it. Coach (Tony) Annese coached at Muskegon so we had a hometown connection.”
Ferris State head football coach Tony Annese guided Muskegon to Division 2 state championships in 2004, 2006 and 2008. He has led the Bulldogs to consecutive GLIAC championships in 2014 and 2015, then to the national semifinals last season.
Thrower doesn’t mind the time demands that come with being a two-sport athlete in college.
“My goal is to win national championships in both sports – that’s the plan,” he said. “I feel my strengths are making plays and getting my teammates involved and being a leader on the court and being an extension of Coach Bronkema. With me and Cush (Cushingberry) on the floor together, it’s really whoever is closer to the ball who will bring it up since it’s an open system. We like to push the ball up, run fast and get a lot of shots up, and that’s playing to my style.”
After a football practice, Thrower scored six points in 12 minutes in Ferris State’s 80-72 exhibition loss to Michigan State at the Breslin Center last week. The Bulldogs led 38-35 at halftime and were deadlocked at 60 with seven minutes left, showing it could play toe-to-toe with a top national power in Division I.
Then, after helping Ferris State defeat Grand Valley State 28-27 Oct. 21, when Bulldogs quarterback Reggie Bell scored on a 2-yard run with 15 seconds left, Thrower was at basketball practice.
“He’s really good, an amazing athlete; playing two sports is hard enough, but playing that well is another thing,” said Ferris State preseason All-American center Zach Hankins of Thrower. “He can shoot some, great at creating and is an amazing defender too.”