OU's Thomas ends eligbility ordeal

Senior forward finds relief just hours before season opener

Late Saturday night, TaShawn Thomas was laying on the couch talking on the phone with his girlfriend when Lon Kruger’s name popped up on his phone.

Thomas didn’t think much of it because Kruger calls in every so often just to keep in touch, but he knew that he had to answer this call.

The reason for the call was special, though. Thomas had been waiting for this particular message for almost three months.

The NCAA had just ruled him eligible after 9 p.m. Saturday night – a little more than 12 hours before the season opener against Southeastern Louisiana.

“I started screaming,” Thomas said. “I called my mom, and she went crazy. I called my dad, and he went crazy. My roommate went crazy. Buddy and Isaiah came over to my room and were going crazy. All my teammates were going crazy.”

And he called his girlfriend back. She went crazy, too.

Thomas made his first appearance for the Sooners on Sunday afternoon as Oklahoma cruised to an easy season-opening victory. With obvious nerves, Thomas’ game wasn’t great, but there were flashes of what he could be for the Sooners.

He broke down an opposing guard off the dribble and showed an immediate impact on the defensive end, if not on the score sheet. Thomas finished with just four points and had four turnovers – almost half of Oklahoma’s total. He had just three rebounds.

“It was the first game at a new school. I wanted to be great,” Thomas said. “I didn’t play nearly as good as I wanted to but just to get that first game out of the way is just relieving. I’ve had a lot of stress over the past three couple months so just getting that first game out the way helped me out a lot.”

During the entire process, when all Thomas could do was practice, he called one of the hardest things he’s ever had to do. He finally got some relief.

The Sooners will too, once Thomas gets comfortable. Oklahoma (1-0) will ask a lot of him. They’ll ask him to beat a man in the post – face up or back to the basket. Thomas will pass out of the post, something he showed a willingness to do immediately.

“It’s just good to get him out there,” Kruger said. “He did fine but what he’s going to do is way more than that. He does it every day in practice. We’re able to put him in situations to take advantage of mismatches. . . . He’s just a guy that’s kind of a mismatch nightmare for the opposition because he can do so many different things. We’ll use him a lot of different ways.”

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