Ferris State football coach Tony Annese and men's basketball coach Andy Bronkema are unsure how it's going to work out, but they're both excited to add a player with DeShaun Thrower's skills to their respective teams next season.
Thrower, a Muskegon native and the Michigan Mr. Basketball for 2014, transferred to Ferris in 2016 after a two-year career playing basketball at Stony Brook, a Division I program on Long Island in New York.
"Coach Bronkema and I don't really know how it's going to work here once football is going on and basketball is going on," Annese recently told the Free Press. "But DeShaun might even be the guy – and I don't even know what the rules are – that plays on a Saturday afternoon here at Top Taggart, plays the whole game and leads us to victory and then goes and plays in the gym in the Wink and scores 20 points and helps us win on the same day.
"That's how he is, and we don't really worry about it too much because he's a great young man and a hard worker. He's just learned a lot about playing safety."
As a sophomore in 2016, Thrower helped Stony Brook finish 26-7 and earn a berth in the NCAA tournament, where it lost to No. 10 Kentucky in the first round.
However, following the season, he and a teammate were arrested following a theft on campus. They were accused of breaking into another student's car and stealing his $5,000 tax refund in April 2016, according to the New York Post. They faced charges of third-degree grand larceny and third-degree criminal mischief. The charges were dropped, according to a Ferris State spokesperson.
Thrower, who announced his decision to transfer to Ferris State in August, hopes to put the past behind him and help the Bulldogs in two sports.
But he's still thankful for his time as a D-I player at Stony Brook.
"After being there for two years, it was tough to leave," he said. "After building a good relationship with the staff and the community and especially my teammates, it's tough. I still communicate with everybody back there.
"People in the athletic office have written me and have told me good luck in football (during spring practice). I talk to my old teammates on Twitter, and we still communicate about our future plans and how we're doing. I'm still a family with them and plan to go out there and visit them from time to time.
"It was tough leaving, but at the same time, I'll have a family there forever."
Thrower graduated from Muskegon High in 2014 after leading the Big Reds to state finals appearances in both football and basketball as a junior and senior.
The Associated Press named him its Division 1-2 co-football player of the year in 2013 after he pushed Muskegon to a 12-2 record. He played both quarterback and defensive back for the Big Reds, who lost to Lowell in the Class A state championship.
On the basketball court, Thrower scored 21 points to help Muskegon beat Bloomfield Hills, 91-67, in the 2014 state final and cap a 28-0 season. He had three consecutive 30-point games in mid-January and scored 1,100 career points.
He averaged 17.9 points and 7.1 assists and was named Mr. Basketball his senior year. He also made the Free Press Dream Team.
As a 6-foot-1 shooting guard for the Big Reds, he was part of a one-two punch with center and 2015 Mr. Basketball Deyonta Davis, who played at Michigan State in 2015-16 before the Boston Celtics selected him in the second round of the 2016 NBA draft.
The proximity of Big Rapids to Muskegon – about an hour-long drive – lured him to Ferris.
He also liked the connection he shared with Annese, who coached Muskegon High to three state championships in the mid-2000s before leaving to take over Grand Rapids Community College's football program in 2009.
"I visited Grand Valley during the process, and I visited Davenport, which is close to home," Thrower said. "I had a couple of other offers in the GLIAC. When I came to Ferris, I felt like it was the right choice for me after talking to Coach Bronkema and talking to Coach Annese. I was going to have both sports that I love back.
"Coach Annese has the hometown connection, and Coach Bronkema made me feel really comfortable when I came."
Thrower said longtime Muskegon coach Keith Guy aided him throughout the recruiting process and said that Thrower couldn't go wrong with Ferris, especially with someone such as Annese, who had been embedded in the Muskegon community for several years.
"I've known DeShaun since he was probably in the seventh grade," Annese said. "It's awesome. DeShaun Thrower is just an incredibly competitive young man. ...
"Coming out of high school, he had Division I offers at football as well as basketball. But he was Mr. Basketball, so when you're Mr. Basketball, you're probably thinking, 'Jeez, I should probably go play basketball.' "
Annese's Bulldogs went 12-3 in 2016 and beat rival Grand Valley State in the playoffs to clinch an appearance in the D-II national semifinal, a game they lost to the eventual national champion, Northwestern Missouri State, 35-20.
Thrower hasn't played football since 2013, but Annese has inserted the junior-to-be at safety, and Thrower started in the team's spring game April 22.
On the second play of the game, Thrower crashed the run and met running back Marvin Campbell at the line of scrimmage for his first taste of game tackling since high school. Campbell lowered his shoulders and got the best of the rookie. A grimacing Bronkema watched with his basketball team from the sideline.
"It's just like riding a bike for him, I'm sure," said Annese, referencing Thrower's first tackle. "Bronkema might be worried, but I wasn't worried too much. He's a gifted athlete. I've seen him play football all the way through his high school career. He had an awesome spring for us, too, so you add him to the rest of the seniors back there, and it makes what for what I consider a really good secondary."
Now Thrower is focused on getting his groove back on the football field, as he has two years of eligibility left.
"It felt really good, just being back on the field and being live again," he said. "The whole spring ball, we really didn't go live, so it felt good to run around and go live again and hit. That's the part of the game I like. I like contact, so that first play really didn't faze me too much. It felt good."
Ferris' basketball program was just as successful as its football counterpart this past school year.
Bronkema's Bulldogs went 28-5, won both a conference title and the GLIAC tournament championship and lasted two rounds in the D-II NCAA tournament. Sophomore center Zach Hankins earned conference player-of-the-year honors and was one of the top shot blockers in the nation.
Thrower said he is excited to take what he has learned at the D-I level at Stony Brook, including the setbacks he has had both on and off the court, and applying it to Ferris' backcourt. Perhaps he can drum up another one-two punch with Hankins like he did with Davis at Muskegon three years ago.
"On every team, I was always the star player, and most of the time, the team is built around me," Thrower said. "When I was at Stony Brook, it was a way different experience and a different experience on the court.
"The offense didn't run through me like is usually did in high school. I just wasn't the star player, and I didn't play as much as I usually did, so it was tough to keep myself going and grinding every day. If I wasn't mentally tough, I don't think I would have kept it up and gave all the effort that I did."
Detroit Free Press