Houston transfer TaShawn Thomas bolsters Oklahoma’s front court


Last season, the Oklahoma Sooners basketball team was a program on the rise. Head Coach Lon Kruger continued to make strides in bringing the Sooners back to national significance in his third season.

Kruger had a talented team last year, but the Sooners dealt with major depth issues inside. After Amath M’Baye shocked Sooner Nation by leaving to pursue a pro career, the Sooners were left with limited options in the paint in the 2013-2014 season.

Ryan Spangler came on strong in his first season in Norman, rebounding the ball well and finishing the season with 9.3 boards per game. Junior D.J. Bennett also provided good minutes at times off the bench, but wasn’t consistent enough. Kruger couldn’t trust Bennett late in games, and that led to him getting less playing time down the stretch.

Kruger and his coaching staff knew that they needed to add more depth in the frontcourt. The staff went to work on the recruiting trail, signing two high school big men, Khadeem Lattin and Jamuni McNeace.

With freshmen comes growing pains though, so adding a more experienced player was important for the staff. On Sunday, news came that the Sooners would be getting the experience they needed. TaShawn Thomas decided that he would transfer to OU. Thomas, a Power Forward, has one more year of eligibility remaining. 

Thomas and the coaching staff are hoping for an immediate impact on the court. But Thomas must appeal to the NCAA to avoid sitting out a year as most Division I transfers must do.

If the appeal is won, Thomas would probably be the favorite to replace Cameron Clark in the starting lineup. The Sooners will be missing Clark’s 15.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game and Thomas could be the person to replace that. Thomas scored 15.4 points per game in his junior season at Houston.

Now Clark and Thomas aren’t the same player. Clark was more of a shooter, and Thomas is more of an inside presence. Thomas will allow the Sooners to play a bigger lineup, which they weren’t able to do last season. Inside scoring is what Oklahoma needs, and Thomas will be able to help Ryan Spangler get points in the paint.

Thomas will also be able to help Spangler in the rebounding department. Spangler was one of the best rebounders in the league last year. If Spangler didn’t grab the rebound though, the other Sooners on the court didn’t either. Spangler was a one man show, and Thomas will be able to change that.

What I like most about Thomas, and what I think will be the most important thing he adds to the team is shot blocking. The Sooners ranked 204th in the nation in blocked shots, only sending 3.3 shots per game back at the opponent. Late in the season it was clear that the Sooners needed rim protection. Watching opponents get easy shots inside was maddening to watch.

Thomas averaged 2.7 blocks per game in his junior season. He had at least one block in all but one game, and had multiple games of seven blocks. He could help the Sooners become at least an average defensive team, if not a strong one. That was definitely not the case last year.

D.J. Bennett provided shot blocking at times last year in his limited minutes, but had trouble staying away from foul trouble. Thomas is a player who avoids foul trouble while still getting the blocks. He didn’t foul out at all last season.

Hopefully the appeal is won by Thomas and he can come in and play right away. The team has a chance to really make a run at a Big 12 title next year, and having Thomas in the lineup would go a long way in accomplishing that.