Arkansas' Thompson Lets Her Play Do The Talking

FAYETTEVILLE -- The only bad day University of Arkansas women's coach Susie Gardner said she had from the time she was hired in April of 2003 until the start of her first Lady'Backs season was the day that junior college transfer Sheree Thompson suffered a season-ending knee ligament injury in preseason.

Had Thompson not gotten hurt, it's plausible to think Arkansas might have reached the Women's NCAA Tournament last season, rather than falling a win or two short at 16-12 and 5-9 in the Southeastern Conference.

Through 12 games this season, a healthy Thompson has averaged 7.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists for 10-2 Arkansas, in addition to ranking third on the defensive-minded team with 29 steals.

"She's a player," said UA guard Adrienne Bush, who is penciled to start against Florida in Thompson's place tonight. "Sheree has the ability to score 20 points a night. She's very talented, and she works hard for what she gets."

Thompson has been a bit up and down lately, in the manner of most juco transfers in their first Division I season, but she has impressed her teammates.

Melissa Hobbs, a junior guard/forward for Arkansas, pointed out, "Sheree is a scorer, and she's smart about scoring. She can read defenses well. If you give her the freedom, she can create, do things on her own and make everyone else look good."

Gardner first noticed those qualities while watching Thompson play a couple of games for Northwest-Shoals Community College in Muscle Shoals, Ala.

"Sheree can see the floor so well," Gardner said. "She can see a play happen before it happens. She's like a quarterback who throws the ball to a receiver before he turns around."

Though perhaps not quite as quick as she was before her knee injury, Thompson is still very effective in Arkansas' pressing defense that has helped cause more than 28 opponent turnovers per game.

She has scored points in bunches at times, including at the start of a couple of games. Though very good in the open floor, Thompson has struggled in the halfcourt offense at times.

"She doesn't always see the defense," Gardner said. "Sometimes an offensive player only sees her color of uniform. I've had that sense about Sheree."

The result has been 33 Thompson turnovers -- third-highest on the team.

Also, because of Thompson's medical redshirt last season, Gardner said, "I'm not sure her stamina is where it needs to be."

Thompson, after starting Arkansas' first 11 games, gave way to April Seggebruch in a 66-54 win over Cincinnati on Sunday as Gardner sought an outside shooting threat.

Tonight Bush gets the nod because of her defensive intensity against a very quick Florida team.

But chances are, Thompson will still play significant minutes in most SEC games. She sounds as if she's up to the challenge.

"We're playing against quick guards in the SEC, but I believe the players on our team can step up," Thompson said. "I'm not going to downplay us. We have a lot of mental toughness."

Thompson had a breakout game of sorts in Arkansas' 59-53 win at Memphis last month, with 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting plus six rebounds.

"I think that's because her junior college coach was there," Gardner said, smiling. "But Sheree is a big-play maker. She can make the right play at the right time on defense."

In a complimentary way, Gardner added, "It looks like she's been playing pickup games all her life."

Gardner elaborated: "Sheree just has a feel for the game. I can't pinpoint one skill that's her best, but she's a great rebounder and she could be a point guard if we needed her to be. She doesn't have a pure shooting form or even good rotation on the ball, but she sure hits some big 3-pointers."

Thompson has made 37 percent of her 3-point tries (10 of 27), which would rank her 10th in the SEC if she had two more successful attempts.

Overall, Thompson is shooting 41.3 percent -- not great, but still fourth on the UA Gang That Can't Shoot straight, behind Ruby Vaden (.581), Danielle Allen (.500) and Sarah Pfeifer (.450). And that is with the second-most attempts, behind Rochelle Vaughn's 133.

Thompson also has nine blocked shots -- one fewer than team leader Vaden -- including a game-saver in the final second against Kristen Forristall of Oregon in a 65-62 win over the Ducks.

On top of all that, Thompson keeps the team loose.

"She's a character," Hobbs said.

Bush affirmed, "She's a comedian. She keeps us laughing on road trips. Some folks have that knack. Just the way she says something is funny. It's real random."

A bit shy with the media so far, Thompson should get plenty of postgame visits to interview rooms before her career is done.

Hawgs Daily Top Stories