SPWC Moderator: Deon Thomas, University of Illinois

Deon Thomas, University of Illinois

Deon will serve as Moderator for Panel 5-Fundraising: Events, Grants and Solicitations

The Chicago native is a graduate of Neal F. Simeon Vocational High School on Chicago’s south side. At Simeon Deon blossomed into one of the most recognized basketball players in Chicago Public League history. His junior year Simeon won the Chicago Public League championship and by his senior year he was ranked as high as No. 3 in the nation. In
1989 he was voted Mr. Basketball for the State of Illinois. He was also a Parade All-American and McDonald’s All-American that year.

Deon attended the University of Illinois and during his time as a basketball player for the Fighting Illini he surpassed even his wildest expectations. As a freshman Deon set the record for the highest scoring average for a freshman in school history(15.4). Deon would go on to become a 3x team MVP and 4x All-Big Ten selection and by the end of his Illini playing career Deon had become the schools All-Time leader in points(2,129), Free Throws(790), and block shots(177). He was also a colligate All-American and Naismith Nominee.

After a stellar career in Champaign/Urbana he was selected 28th in the 1994 NBA draft by the Dallas Mavericks, but chose to carry on his playing career in Europe. His 14 year career oversees would see him compete throughout Europe and the Middle East (Spain, Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria and Israel). Deon has been recognized as one of the most successful American athletes to ever play in Europe. He’s won multiple league championships, he was also a 7x European All-Star and won Back to Back Euro-league Championships with Macabbi Tel Aviv (2003/2004 and 2004/2005).

Being a consummate teacher Deon went straight into coaching after his retirement in 2009. He would return to his home state and become the Head Coach and Athletic Director of Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey, Illinois. Deon quickly changed the energy around the program and in his very first season set the All-Time record for wins in a season
with 29. That same year LCCC would go on to compete in the NJCAA National Tournament for the first time in school history. At the completion of the 2009/2010 season Deon was voted Region 24 Coach of the Year. He also received the same honors from the Midwest Athletic Conference(MWAC) and Illinois Basketball Coaches Association(IBCA). After 5 years at Lewis and Clark, Deon returned to Chicago as the assistant coach of the UIC Flames. After spending two seasons as an assistant coach for the Flames, Deon decided to call it quits.Leaving behind his dream of becoming a NCAA DI head coach in an effort to impact the lives of those around him especially inner city Chicago youth.

All of his experiences have led him to his current position as the Associate Director of Development for the University of Illinois. Deon is also a college basketball analyst for the Big Ten Network and Fighting Illini Men’s Basketball.

He and his wife Dafna have been married for 20 years and have two amazing daughters Gabrielle and Liel.

Roy Kessel

Roy Kessel

Roy Kessel is the Founder of the Sports Philanthropy Network. Roy has worked in the sports business world for over 20 years including serving as an instructor in Northwestern University's graduate Sports Management Program. Having served as a sports lawyer representing athletes, entrepreneurs and start-up businesses, Roy has extensive experience helping organizations improve their strategy, marketing, communications and leadership development.
Sports Philanthropy Network

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