Former Illinois Mr. Basketball now UIC assistant coach - KMSP-TV

Former Illinois Mr. Basketball now UIC assistant coach

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CHICAGO – UIC Head Basketball Coach Howard Moore announced the hiring of Deon Thomas and the promotion of Jeremy Buttell to the positions of assistant coaches on Tuesday afternoon.  Thomas comes to UIC after spending five years as the athletic director and head basketball coach for Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey, Ill.  Buttell has served four years on Moore’s staff, including the previous three seasons as the coordinator of basketball and video operations.

“I am thrilled for UIC basketball that Deon and Jeremy are now on the coaching staff,” said Moore.  “Deon is a remarkable individual with many years of elite basketball experience.  His knowledge of the game and his eye for talent is a tremendous addition for the Flames.”

Thomas, the former Illinois Mr. Basketball from Simeon High School, enjoyed a decorated 14-year career playing professionally overseas for teams in six different countries.  As a collegiate student-athlete, Thomas was also a four-year letterwinner for Illinois and still serves as the Fighting Illini’s all-time leading scorer (2,129) and shot blocker (177).  He was selected No. 28 overall in the 1994 NBA Draft by the Dallas Mavericks, but decided to play abroad.

“I can’t begin to express how excited I am for this opportunity and how much I respect Coach Moore,” said Thomas.  “I want to help put UIC basketball back on the map and win championships.  I grew up near UIC and would walk past the university almost every day, so this is like a homecoming for me.”

Thomas began his professional career in Spain where he played for four separate teams over a four-year period.  In 1998, Thomas was signed by Maccabi RiShon LeZion in Israel and then he competed with a team in the Grand Canary Islands from 1999-2001.  After returning to Spain for a two-year stint and one season in Turkey, Thomas came back to Israel and played for Maccabi Tel Aviv from 2003-05, winning the Israel Cup and Championship and the Euroleague Title twice.  Thomas then played in Greece and Bulgaria for consecutive seasons before returning to Israel for the final two years of his professional career.

While at Illinois, Thomas became one of the Fighting Illini’s best players in program history as he was named to the All-Century Team 20-man roster in 2004.  Thomas earned All-Big Ten honors and team MVP laurels in 1992, 1993 and 1994, including honorable mention All-American status in his final season.  Aside from being Illinois’ all-time leading scorer and shot blocker, Thomas ranks first in made field goals (803) and fourth in career rebounds (846).  His career-high of 39 points was against UIC on Dec. 30, 1991, which ranks tied-for-seventh all-time in program history.

During his time at Simeon, Thomas led the Wolverines to a Chicago Public League title in 1988 and was named a McDonald’s All-American in his senior season.  

Prior to his four years on Moore’s staff, Buttell was a three-year letterwinner for UIC, competing in 88 games for the Flames from 2007-10. During his senior year, Buttell led the conference in rebounding during league play, ranked third in minutes and 11th in scoring. He produced five double-doubles, including four in the final five games of the season.

Buttell began his college career at Texas Tech (2005-06), playing one season under legendary head coach Bob Knight and current UIC assistant coach Stew Robinson. He played in 19 games as a true freshman and tallied a season-high nine points at Madison Square Garden against Syracuse. He earned one start for the Red Raiders versus Wake Forest in the Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament.

“Jeremy is one of the most energetic young professionals I have ever been around,” said Moore.  “During the past four years, through his work ethic, Jeremy has proven to me that he is ready to take the next step in his career.”

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