He didn’t want to step on any toes or make anyone think he was taking all the shots. At Houston, he had to touch the ball. The offense – and the pressure – centered around him.
So, he’s been passive. When the ball comes into the block, he’s looking to send it back out to his teammates.
That’s all about to change. Thomas is more comfortable, and he needs to be a bigger part of the Sooners’ offense as they prepare for a Friday night matchup with Missouri.
“We have to get the ball inside more,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “We have to play inside-out a little bit more. When you’re not shooting for a very good percentage, you have to try something different.”
Despite making the championship at the Battle 4 Atlantis, Oklahoma (4-2) shot 37.6 percent from the field. The Sooners averaged just 63.3 points during the tournament and have just 70.6 points per game during the first six games.
Last year at this time, Oklahoma, which averaged 80 points per game last season, scored below 82 points just once – in a loss to top-ranked Michigan State.
Defense hasn’t been the problem. Oklahoma is allowing just 61 points per game and is the top defensive rebounding team in the nation, which is indirectly because of Thomas.
The offense is the issue, which can be fixed by a more direct Thomas.
“The coaches are telling me to be more assertive on offense,” said Thomas, who led Houston points last year and has averaged nearly 15 points per game for his career. “I feel like it’s going to start picking up as the season goes along.”
To Oklahoma’s credit, having a player like Thomas is a new trend. There’s a feeling out process, just like there is one for Thomas coming to a new school.
Fellow big man Ryan Spangler has refined his offensive game, but last year, Spangler was non-existent on the offensive end – unless it was grabbing and offensive rebound or scoring a put back.
Last year’s four-guard lineup was conducive to a lot of shots. Kruger wants his team to value the ball more on offense: Look for three or four passes, not always a quick shot.
“It’ll be a change,” Kruger said. “To this point, we haven’t thrown it inside much. It’s not like they’ve had to make that adjustment to this point.”
That adjustment is upon them, and just in time for Thomas, who finally feels comfortable around his new teammates on the court.
Thomas has a unique blend of talent for a big man. He was a guard until a growth spurt in high school and grew up having to dribble a basket everywhere, at the request of his father, who provides aggressive encouragement after every game.
He kept those guard-like handles once he moved to the post and has the ability to score face-up, with his back to the basket or even three steps off the block.
“That’s something that will really be a positive with TaShawn,” Kruger said. “He’s kind of a mismatch guy.”
Thomas didn’t know what to expect when he first came to Oklahoma. He didn’t think he’d be shunned, but the process has been more smoother than what he had imagined when it came to acclimating to the roster.
The roster acclimating to him could make things go much smoother on the offensive end of the court for the Sooners.
“We’re still searching for something that allows us a little more rhythm, a little more flow,” Kruger said. “We just haven’t shot the ball with the rhythm we did last year. We have to figure out something to be more comfortable.”